OAKLAND — Every baseball player has their “Welcome to the Big Leagues” moment.
Brandon Maurer’s came quite early Thursday afternoon in his major league debut during the 8-2 loss to the Oakland A’s at O.co Coliseum.
With one out in the first inning and Coco Crisp on first base, the Mariners’ rookie was trying to put away Oakland’s No. 3 hitter Josh Reddick.
Maurer had a 1-2 count and planned on throwing an elevated fastball to Reddick. If he chased, it would be a strikeout swinging. If he didn’t, Maurer could try something different on 2-2.
Instead, Maurer didn’t elevate the pitch quite as much as needed. In Double-A, a player might still swing and miss or foul it off. In Triple-A, a hitter probably rips it for a single.
In the big leagues?
Reddick crushed the ball over the wall in right-center for a two-run homer.
Welcome to the big leagues, kid.
“Just a bad pitch,” Maurer said.
The intention was good, the execution was bad.
Maurer’s debut didn’t follow any feel-good movie script. He gave up six runs on eight hits – including two homers – in six innings pitched, and the Mariners fell to 2-2.
Still, there were positives. He didn’t look overwhelmed. After the rough start, he allowed one run on two hits over the next three innings.
“He really settled in nicely, and was throwing the well for a while,” Seattle manager Eric Wedge said.
Things fell apart for Maurer in the sixth. He gave up back-to-back doubles to Jed Lowrie and Reddick for a run. Then he hung a slider to Yoenis Cespedes, who took advantage of the mistake by yanking the ball out of the park with a screaming line drive for a two-run homer.
“His stuff started leaking back out over the plate,” Wedge said. “There were a couple mistakes that he made. He’ll learn from those and big league hitters will let you know.”
Wedge let Maurer fight his way out of the inning. He got help from Michael Saunders, who threw out Brandon Moss at second as he tried to stretch a single into a double. Maurer got Chris Young to pop out to end the inning, and his debut.
“I wanted him to finish that inning,” Wedge said. “I wanted him to walk off the field, and he did.”
Maurer’s line was six innings, six earned runs on eight hits with a strikeout, a wild pitch and a hit batter. He threw 74 pitches with 52 strikes.
“It was definitely the first one,” Maurer said of his start.
And they usually get easier after that first one.
“You get a lot of firsts out of the way in that first start,” Wedge said. “I’m sure he learned a lot today, and he’ll continue to learn. It’s part of it.”
One thing Maurer learned is not to be afraid of his fastball.
“I started getting away from my fastball and falling behind in the count,” he said. “It was the location with my offspeed (pitches). I know what I need to work on now. So I will take that and work on them till my next start.”
In addition to making his big-league debut, Maurer was pitching in front of more than 20 friends and family.
“That’s not easy either to try and go out there and trying to impress them,” he said. “I think I will be a little more comfortable the next time.”
Perhaps his next time will also include a little more run support. Seattle managed two runs,despite getting eight hits.
A’s starter A.J. Griffin held the Mariners scoreless for four innings. In the fifth inning, Dustin Ackley led off with a single and scored on Michael Saunders sacrifice line-out to left field to cut the lead to 2-1.
The only other Seattle run came in the sixth, courtesy of Michael Morse. Morse turned on a low inside sinker and hit rocket to left field for a solo home run to lead off the inning. It was his fourth home run of the season – most in baseball.
“I’m seeing the ball pretty good and putting some good swings on it,” he said. “I hit the ball where it’s pitched. I don’t go up there trying to pull everything. I go up there trying to get a good pitch to hit.”
The Mariners looked like they might be getting to Griffin as Justin Smoak followed Morse’s homer with a hard single to right. But Seattle mustered nothing more the rest of the way, getting one hit in the final three innings against the Oakland bullpen.
“It’s a new ballclub and we’ve got a lot of guys here that are now just getting settled in,” Wedge said. ‘It takes a little time to get your feet underneath of you and find that groove as club, but we will.”