When the Seattle Mariners acquired Aaron Harang, they believed they were getting a capable starting pitcher who would give them consistency and quality innings at the No. 5 spot in the rotation.
Now three starts into Harang’s brief tenure with the team, the Mariners are still waiting to receive those things.
On the heels of an awful outing in Texas, Harang wasn’t much better on Friday night at Safeco Field, lasting just three innings and giving up five runs on six hits and never giving the Mariners much of a chance in a 6-3 loss to the Los Angeles Angels.
The overall numbers on Harang aren’t pretty. In three starts, he’s pitched just a total of 12 2/3 innings and given up 16 runs on 21 hits. He has an earned run average of 11.37.
Is Mariners manager Eric Wedge concerned?
“I’m not concerned,” Wedge said. “Obviously, he needs to do a better job with his fastball. He didn’t have quite the same fastball tonight and didn’t quite have the same command."
The trouble for Harang started in the first inning. He gave up back-to-back singles to Peter Bourjos and Mike Trout to start the game, which is never a good thing.
But he managed limit the damage to just one run. He gave up a sacrifice fly to Albert Pujols for the run. But came back to strike out Josh Hamilton, while a deep flyball from Mark Trumbo was caught on the warning track.
That would be Harang’s best inning of the night.
In the second inning, Hank Conger yanked a line-drive two-run homer to right field to push the lead to 3-0. The third inning wasn’t much better. Harang walked Trout to start the inning, but got Pujols to ground into a double play. That third out didn’t come immediately. He gave up a single to Hamilton and Trumbo hit another shot to center field – and this one didn’t stay in the park. Harang walked another hitter, but finally got out of the inning on a fielder’s choice.
Still, the Mariners were down 5-0 after three innings and Wedge had seen enough. And after three innings, Wedge had seen enough and went to the bullpen.
“He just didn’t have it tonight,” Wedge said.
It’s easy to wonder if Harang’s future in the rotation could be short. But the Mariners’ best replacement for him – prized pitching prospect Danny Hultzen - was diagnosed with strained rotator cuff on the same day and is out for at least two weeks.
And Wedge didn’t seem to indicate a change is looming.
“We’ll make sure he has a good work day,” Wedge said. “He’s a veteran pitcher who knows how to win at this level. I’m sure he’ll be better next outing.”
The Seattle bullpen did a capable job of letting the game turn into a laugher.
Hector Noesi pitched 3 1/3 innings giving up just one run, while Charlie Furbush (one batter pitched, one strikeout) and Yoervis Medina (2 1/3 shutout innings) didn’t allow a run.
“The bullpen gave us every opportunity for us to come back,” Wedge said.
While a 5-0 deficit after three innings isn’t ideal, the Mariners had more than opportunities to even it up.
They pecked away at the lead.
Seattle scored a run in the fourth when Kelly Shoppach wore an inside pitch off the elbow with bases loaded for the team’s first run.
In the sixth, they scored a pair of runs as Endy Chavez plated one with a sacrifice fly and Brendan Ryan bunted another run home on a safety squeeze play.
While the small ball was good, a hit with a runner’s in scoring position might have provided a lead. Seattle had just one hit with runners in scoring position. And that one hit came in the seventh inning when pinch hitter Dustin Ackley singled off the glove of a diving Howie Kendrick in short right field. Justin Smoak, who was on second, was waved home by third base coach Jeff Datz on the play to score. Kendrick grabbed the ball, wheeled and delivered a perfect throw to home to get Smoak.
Wedge stood by his third base coach despite Smoak making the last out of the inning and the Mariners down 6-3.
“That was a great play by Kendrick,” Wedge said. “He knocks it down, comes up, throws it and falls down and somehow makes a perfect throw. I went out there and the umpire told me that Smoak’s foot was up going over the plate. If his foot’s down he’s safe.”
The Mariners stranded 13 runners total in the game, which pleased Wedge. They had a runner reach base in every inning after they got down.
“I loved the ways our guys fought tonight,” Wedge said. “When you get down like that, it’s easy for the game to get away from you. We missed some opportunities with runners in scoring position, but we created opportunity after opportunity. If our guys battle and fight like that, we are going to win a lot of ball games.”