Mariners 4, Indians 1: Lowe Wild, Offense Sinks Back to Earth

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)

  • Jacob

    Lowe clearly did not have it last night, but he really battled in this one. To only give up 4 runs was impressive. The offense should have bailed him out.

  • Jaker

    The M’s offense might be the only one worse than Cleveland’s in the AL. If Tomlin ever had a start to get him back on track, tonight would be his best opportunity, because it won’t get any “easier” than this (I put that in quotes because no team is easy to pitch to, some are just less hard)

    If he can’t get it together tonight, he may be in trouble for his spot in the rotation

  • mgbode

    yeah, but if he gives up even a single run we might be in trouble.  he is battling King Felix tonight.

  • mgbode

    well, the defense bailed him out a few times so that has to count for something.

  • Vindictive_Pat

    Once again, the umpire in this game seemed to have a ridiculously small and inconsistent strike zone, which made Lowe’s inaccuracy so much more painful.  Honestly if Seattle didn’t have completely terrible hitters, they would have won this game 10-1.

  • cmm13

    Seemed prett consistent to me…Vargas got every off the plate call, Lowe did not. 😉

  • cmm13

    The offense seemed very hesistant on everything Vargas threw, like they were waiting for him to give them that fastball and it just never came.

    And instead of the fastball he dropped the outside breaking ball and was given the call on everyone of them, on or off the plate.

    Maybe it’s the Seattle weather but neither Masterson or Lowe were able to keep their sinkers down.

    Is there anything to a sinker pitcher doing better in warmer weather due to the humidity and the break in the ball?

  • kjn

     I noticed the same thing while watching on MLB’s game center. With pitch trackers now, it’s painfully obvious when that’s the case.

  • Vindictive_Pat

    That’s where I was watching too… now, I don’t know for sure how accurate their pitch tracker is, but if it’s accurate then that was a shameful display from the umpire… there was an obvious correlation between “good” calls for Vargas and “bad” calls for Lowe… made the guy look like he was on the take.  With that said, Lowe did pitch erratically and couldn’t command his sinker and would have probably lost anyway, but was disappointed with what I saw from the umpire.

  • cmm13

    I know it’s a whole debate in itself but I’ve often wondered what one game utilizing a pitch tracker calling the strikes and balls with a human ump available for calls at the plate would look like.

  • kjn

    I don’t think it’s a conscious thing by umps most times. I’ve watched games where the pitch tracker will put two back-to-back pitches in the exact same spot and the ump will call one a ball and the other a strike.

  • kjn

    I’d have no problem with that. I think I’m in the minority though.