Unfortunately, the celebrating stopped shortly after Ken Griffey Jr. was inducted into the Seattle Mariners’ hall of fame.
With a packed house of 46,027 crammed into Safeco Field – the first sellout of the season – the Mariners gave those fans little if anything to cheer about. And the only runs scored by a Seattle player were in the countless Griffey highlights run on the massive video board in between innings.
The current Mariners mustered nothing resembling a run, getting shutout 10-0 by the Milwaukee Brewers.
“Yeah, it’s frustrating,” Mariners acting manager Robby Thompson said. “This one here, we want to forget about.”
Brewers’ starter Tom Gorzelanny, who was making his first start since being struck on the leg with a line drive on August 2 and knocking him out of the game, tossed seven shutout innings, giving up three
runs HITS while striking out seven and walking two.
“He was working in and out of the zone,” Seattle’s Michael Morse said. “He was working hard in and soft away. Typical stuff, but he kept the ball down.”
Of course, the running joke on the night is that they could have used Griffey’s bat in the line-up.
But even Griffey in all his greatness might not have been much helps since the Mariners (53-63) only got four hits and the Seattle pitching staff couldn’t seem to slow down a pieced together Brewers’ line-up that is missing Ryan Braun, Rickie Weeks and Corey Hart.
Still, Milwaukee (51-66) pounded out 16 hits, including four extra base hits to get those 10 runs.
Most of that offense came late in the game. For six innings, Mariners starter Hisashi Iwakuma pitched efficiently. He didn’t allow a single run and only allowed three hits. But everything fell apart in the seventh.
It started so innocently. Iwakuma gave up an infield bunt single up the first-base line to the speedy Carlos Gomez, who managed to avoid a tag from a diving Justin Smoak. As Iwakuma tried to get off the mound to cover, he stumbled and then grabbed at his lower back.
It seemed minor at the time.
“Yes, I tweaked my back running to first,” he said through translator Antony Suzuki. “It’s nothing major.”
Caleb Gindl followed with a soft ground ball deep in the hole. Brad Miller fielded the ball and tossed the ball off his back foot to first despite really having no play. That extra throw allowed Gomez to advance to third. So instead of having runners on first and second with no outs, there were runners on first and third.
“As hard as Brad had to go in the hole to get that and with an aggressive runner in Gomez, maybe it’s best to arm fake that and maybe get him in a rundown,” Thompson said. “Growing pains. Those things are going to happen.”
Those pains got more painful. The following batter Khrys Davis smashed a hard ground ball to third that Kyle Seager gloved up the line. So instead of being able to step on third and throw to first for an easy double play had Miller held the ball on the play before, Seager was forced to throw home to get Gomez. The ball was high and Gomez and catcher Humberto Quintero collided on the play with the ball squirting free.
“It’s where the ball took him,” Thompson said of Seager’s decision. “He tried to thread the needle.”
The Brewers had a 1-0 lead without the ball leaving the infield.
That lead grew. After tweaking his back, Iwakuma couldn’t get the ball down in the strike zone and Brewers hitters jumped all over it.
Juan Francisco doubled home a run and Yuni Betancourt added an RBI single. But the big blow came from Scooter Gennett, who resembles his name, in stature. The Milwaukee No. 9 hitter ripped a deep shot to right field. Morse had a bead on the ball and tried to make a homer-saving catch, but the ball bounced out of his glove and over the wall for a three-run homer.
“I felt like I had a good chance on it until I hit the wall and it kind of jarred my wrist back,” Morse said.
Admittedly, Iwakuma’s minor back tweak had major ramifications.
“Ever since that first play, my pitches were a little bit up,” Iwakuma said. “I don’t like to make excuses, but I’m sure it had some kind of effect. My balance and my timing with my upper body and lower body wasn’t right after that play.”
Did he think of pulling himself?
“I thought I would get out of the jam at that time,” he said. “I wanted to fight tooth and nails and trying to find out but I was caught at the end.”
Iwakuma never got out of the seventh, going 6 2/3 innings and giving up six runs on nine hits with a walk and three strikeouts. It snapped a stretch of five straight games where he allowed three earned runs or less.
Still it wouldn’t have matter much if Iwakuma came out earlier. The Mariners bullpen wasn’t much better. Yoervis Medina provided one scoreless inning, but Lucas Luetge gave up four runs on six hits to put the game really out of reach.