Mariners pounded by Cleveland in home opener
A 10-run fourth inning was the key to Cleveland's 12-3 victory over Seattle in the Mariners' home opener Friday night at Safeco Field.
Seattle Times staff reporter
Cleveland Indians @ Mariners,
6:10 p.m., ROOT
Timing is everything when it comes to love, good fortune and convincing tens of thousands of baseball fans you're worth coming back to see again sometime.
Unfortunately for a downcast group of Mariners, they knew the timing of the biggest blowout they've suffered in quite a while couldn't possibly have been worse. As an opening act for their devoted patrons, the 12-3 disaster turned in by the Mariners in a Friday night loss to the Cleveland Indians wouldn't get a second chance on Broadway.
And for many in a sold-out Safeco Field who witnessed a thrashing all too similar to those suffered by the 2010 product, they might not feel like giving the ballpark alongside Dave Niehaus Way another drive-by anytime soon.
"A game like today, you really kind of throw out all the rules when you have that type of game early," Mariners manager Eric Wedge said.
Wedge was describing how a team reacts to being down 11-0 by the fourth inning. That's what Seattle faced after starting pitcher Jason Vargas and reliever Tom Wilhelmsen combined to give up a 10-spot in that frame, leaving the 45,727 fans in attendance stunned.
The manager might as well have thrown out the scorecard along with those rules he talked about. Maybe toss in all of tomorrow's newspapers as well. He should destroy every piece of video evidence that exists while he's at it, because no one will want to pay to see a team that's down 12-1 after five innings and had just four hits by the ninth frame.
Unfortunately for Wedge, his Mariners had looked nothing like this even when losing four in a row on their season-opening road trip. Well, they did when it came to not scoring. But the pitching had been pretty good.
Not this time. Again, though, timing is everything.
"They just started hitting the ball," Vargas said. "I was making some pitches and they just started dumping it in, started smelling it, and I just couldn't get it to stop."
Vargas had given up a solo home run to Asdrubal Cabrera in the first inning, then five straight hits — three singles and two doubles — along with a sacrifice fly to start the fateful fourth. It was 6-0 by the time he was lifted, but Wilhelmsen couldn't stop the bleeding and actually turned the wound into a gaping hemorrhage.
The big blow was a towering, three-run homer by Travis Hafner to right field that struck the Hit it Here Café sign in the second deck, but only after fans had a good chance to gasp at the sheer height and power behind the blast. That made it 11-0, and Wilhelmsen was treated to a long, loud mock cheer when he finally ended the inning on a strikeout a couple of batters later.
"My fastball was up and I didn't have control," Wilhelmsen said. "When you live off the fastball and die off it, if you can't throw it for strikes, you're going to have to find something else."
Wilhelmsen couldn't find it. And his team never had it.
Even before the game turned into a rout of historic proportions where Mariners home openers are concerned, the hosts weren't generating a whole lot against Indians starter Carlos Carrasco.
"It's something that we're going to have to keep pushing through," Wedge said. "We've talked about it a little bit ... first and foremost, you want to create opportunities, which we didn't do today, but we'd done a good job of that prior to today."
Again, though, there's the timing. The Mariners in one swoop managed to erase memories of how they had battled on the road, coming within a hit or two each contest of perhaps swinging the outcome.
Instead, they now sit 2-5, and folks are left to wonder about an offense that has scored 23 runs in seven games — after getting 11 the first two contests. It could have been worse, since the Mariners scored their final two runs of this one in the ninth inning with only a few thousand die-hards still in the stands.
But the end result couldn't have been worse.
In one night, the Mariners damaged the confidence of their fans to a point that it could take weeks to repair.
Wedge tried to mitigate that damage in the dugout, imploring his hitters to throw out the rules, ignore the scoreboard and simply work at not giving away at-bats. Nothing worse than a team getting blown out at home, except maybe a team that looks like it's rolling over and playing dead while getting blown out at home.
"I thought we did a pretty good job of doing what he told us," said Ryan Langerhans, who managed to draw four walks in the game. "I don't think we were giving at-bats away after that big inning."
Still, as usual, it was too little, too late. As with the rest of the night, the timing was nonexistent.
Geoff Baker: 206-464-8286 or email@example.com
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