Mariners set franchise record with 15th straight loss
A beaten group of Mariners packed up after a day on which their rookie All-Star tipping his pitches to opposing hitters was only the start...
Seattle Times staff reporter
Mariners @ N.Y. Yankees, 4:10 p.m., ROOT Sports
BOSTON — A beaten group of Mariners packed up after a day on which their rookie All-Star tipping his pitches to opposing hitters was only the start of their woes.
Later on, they would see their veteran right fielder — and highest-paid player — get picked off first base with runners at the corners. Then, in the inning that truly sealed a 12-8 loss to the Boston Red Sox on Sunday, they saw their left-handed reliever cost his team a key out by forgetting a defensive shift was on.
Add it all up, and the worst part of the day seemed inevitable: the Mariners losing for the 15th consecutive time to set a franchise record.
"Once again, I don't really know what to say," said Brendan Ryan, whose grand slam off Boston starter Tim Wakefield in the seventh capped a five-RBI day that made the final score more respectable. "I honestly feel like every time we suit up, we're going to win. It's beyond Groundhog Day. It seems redundant, but coincidental at the same time. A lot of things have to be going right and wrong. It's pretty unbelievable."
The loss snapped a tie between this Mariners squad and the 1992 version for the franchise record. The major-league record for consecutive losses is 24 by the Cleveland Spiders in 1899, while the modern-day record, post-1919, is 23 by the 1961 Philadelphia Phillies.
Not a whole lot went right for the Mariners after a two-run homer by Miguel Olivo in the first inning gave them a 2-0 lead. Seattle pushed for more that frame, but Justin Smoak was easily thrown out at home to end the inning on a single to right by Mike Carp.
Things went downhill from there in front of 37,650 fans at Fenway Park as Michael Pineda gave up a quick run, then a two-run homer to left by Kevin Youkilis that gave Boston the lead. Jarrod Saltalamacchia capped the rally with a two-run single that made it 5-2 before the first inning was over.
"Obviously, something was going on there with Pineda," Ryan said. "You're not teeing off on a guy like that just coincidentally."
The Mariners' coaches and catcher Olivo agreed that Pineda was inadvertently doing something to tip off the Boston hitters in advance of what he was about to throw.
"They were taking all the sliders and swinging at all the fastballs," Olivo said. "I went out to the mound and told him what I thought he was doing, and he changed it and it worked."
Worked for a while, anyway.
The Red Sox can hit fastballs as well as any team, and that has been Pineda's primary weapon all season long. His changeup remains a work in progress, and the handful he threw were of no use against lefties in this one.
Pineda agreed that he was probably tipping pitches. He said the streak of losses — six shy of the American League mark held by the 1988 Baltimore Orioles — is stressful for the entire team.
"It's just something that's really hard," he said, through an interpreter. "We all feel really bad."
Pineda kept it at 5-2 into the fifth when Seattle scored a run on a Ryan double off the fabled Green Monster in left field. But just before that, with runners at the corners and one out, Wakefield faked a pickoff move to third base before nabbing Ichiro leaning off first.
"The third to first there, that can't happen with Ichi," Mariners manager Eric Wedge said. "We can't give them an out right there. I've said all along, when you're in a stretch like this, your veterans have to lead the way. The last thing you want to see them doing is making mistakes, whether it be on the basepaths, in the field or wherever it may be."
Just last Monday in Toronto, Chone Figgins was picked off first base in an identical situation. Figgins was out of the lineup the next day.
After Ryan's double on Sunday made it 5-3, the roof caved in on Pineda and the Mariners. Pineda was pulled with two on and one out in the bottom of the fifth, and left-hander Aaron Laffey came on to face slugger David Ortiz with the infield shift employed and the left side vacant.
Ortiz grounded one to the left and Laffey — clearly forgetting the shift — looked up to throw to third but realized no one was covering the bag. By the time Laffey regained his balance, Ortiz was already safe at first with an infield hit that loaded the bases.
Carl Crawford singled to bring two runs home, Josh Reddick doubled in another, and Saltalamacchia singled to score another pair for a 10-3 lead that pretty much ended it.
Now, the Mariners head to New York for three games with the Yankees, hoping not to match or surpass the 17 straight losses by the crosstown Mets in 1962.
"We've got to put it all together in order to win a baseball game against the teams we're playing," Wedge said. "The teams that we're playing are playing very well. We've got to put it all together in one game to get 'er done."
Geoff Baker: 206-464-8286 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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