When the Indians took the field in search of their fifth straight win to take on the Seattle Mariners, things immediately looked different. First and foremost, The Grinder Eric Wedge sent lefty Jason Vargas out to the hill and as we know, left-handed starters, no matter how good they are, have been known to give the Wahoos problems. Acta countered by using as right-handed heavy a lineup as he could. Without Asdrubal Cabrera available and with Michael Brantley given the night off, you had a top two of Jason Donald and Jason Kipnis. Also getting the start were Jose Lopez and Aaron Cunningham. Hey, why not give it a shot. Its early, everyone could use the at-bats, and over the last four games, no matter who Acta put in the Tribe nine, they were delivering the goods.
Facing Vargas in this one was Derek Lowe, who won both of his first two starts while posting a 1.98 ERA. Through the first two turns of the rotation, Lowe had been Acta’s best pitcher. Last night however, Lowe couldn’t find his breaking pitches. In particular, he had real trouble painting the outside corner when he needed to.
Something was amiss right from the jump. The first batter he faced, the light-hitting Chone Figgins, took him deep to center field to put the M’s on top 1-0. Two batter later, Ichiro crushed another solo homer. He would give up a double to Kyle Seager and a walk to Michael Saunders before eventually getting out of the first.
An inning later, he wasn’t any better. Lowe loaded the bases on two singles and a walk, and then walked Jesus Montero on four pitches to force in Seattle’s third run. In the fourth, he walked Brendan Ryan to start the frame. Ryan later scored after back to back singles by Figgins and Dustin Ackley. After four innings where he really couldn’t find the plate in a whopping 100 pitches, he came back out for the fifth in attempt to save the bullpen one inning longer. An out, a walk, and a single later, Acta finally came out to get him after 113 pitches, four earned runs, eight hits, and six walks. He would take his first loss of the season as the Mariners took this one 4-1.
“To give up six hits on top of the two home runs,” Lowe said, “and six walks, and they only scored two runs? Try that. That’s not easy. But, yeah, it was just a lot of non-competitive pitches. I think I was on about Plan G by the time I got taken out of the game. I tried so many things. There were times where you could’ve easily made a pitch and got out of an inning, but it just wasn’t going to happen.”
The lone Indians run came on a third inning Kipnis sacrifice fly, scoring Cunningham, who narrowly missed a solo homer. It hit the yellow line of the fence and bounced back. The play was reviewed by the umpires and ruled a double.
The Tribe offense just could never get anything going against Vargas. Their only real threat came in the sixth when they loaded the bases with one out, but Vargas settled down, striking out Shelley Duncan and getting Lopez to ground out to short. The lefty went seven innings giving up just the one run on four hits while striking out seven.
“Vargas was the story,” said manager Manny Acta. “He held us in check the whole night.”
If you want to talk positives, you can applaud the efforts of the Tribe bullpen. “O-H-Jai-ro” Ascencio, Nick Hagadone, and Dan Wheeler combined for three and a third hitless innings of work. Hagadone in particular looked great and you’d have to think he is forcing his way onto this roster the rest of the way, which is a great sign for us. More Hagadone and less Wheeler has to be a good thing.
This was one of those games, played in front of the smallest crowd in Safeco Field history (11,343), where it was a good thing if you couldn’t stay awake to see it. Really nothing exciting happened, unless you enjoy watching your starting pitcher struggle mightily to find his command.
The rubber match of this three-game series is tonight, once again at 10:10. The Mariners will start their ace and former Cy Young Award winner Felix Hernandez (1-1, 3.80 ERA). Acta goes with Josh Tomlin (0-1, 8.31 ERA) who has not looked sharp thus far. This is a big start for the Texan, who the Indians would love to get back on track.
(AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)