Kevin Millwood credits Brendan Ryan's defense for 4-3 Mariners win
Millwood wins at last, with trade deadline looming
Seattle Times staff reporter
One thing Kevin Millwood will miss if he's traded by the Mariners is having one of the best shortstops he's ever seen playing behind him.
Millwood emerged with a 4-3 victory over the Kansas City Royals in his final outing Saturday before a July 31 trade deadline in which his name could be featured.
At age 37, there likely isn't much of a future in baseball for Millwood beyond this season, and the Mariners would like to give him a final shot with a contender if the right offer comes along.
And if he does go out, it will be with a rare victory, thanks in no small part to a couple of plays by shortstop Brendan Ryan.
On a day when the defense didn't always distinguish itself on either side, Ryan hauled in a tough pop-up in shallow left and later made a strong throw on a grounder from 10 feet deep in the outfield grass to nab a runner at first base.
"Defensively, I'm not sure you can get any better," said Millwood, who broke into the majors in 1998. "I'm sure people don't look at him too much because he's not having a great offensive year. But with the ground that he covers and the way he makes plays, I don't know that there's a better one out there."
The crowd of 32,111 at Safeco Field, on hand to witness the pregame Mariners Hall of Fame induction ceremony for Randy Johnson and Dan Wilson, didn't see many memorable moments outside of Ryan in this one.
Seattle did win a third in a row over the Royals — and for the sixth time versus Kansas City in just less than two weeks — in a game the Mariners probably should have wrapped up far easier than they did.
Seattle overcame a 1-0 deficit in the third inning on a two-run homer by Jesus Montero off Royals left-hander Bruce Chen.
Royals left fielder Alex Gordon then lost a ball in the sun — a theme that would recur throughout the day — and let it fall in for a Kyle Seager double with two out.
Miguel Olivo promptly cashed him in with a single to make it 3-1. And then the Mariners pretty much took the rest of the game off offensively.
Trayvon Robinson hit a leadoff single in the fourth for what would be Seattle's final hit of the day.
That left it to Millwood — who'd given up an unearned run in the first inning — and the defense to carry things the rest of the way.
It almost didn't work out.
Gordon hit a one-out double in the seventh and Alcides Escobar tripled to cut the lead to 3-2. But with the tying run on third, Chris Getz hit a ball right at a drawn-in Dustin Ackley, who held the runner and threw to first for the out.
Brandon League then escaped the jam on a Yuniesky Betancourt ground out. The Mariners added a huge insurance run on a Mike Carp sacrifice fly in the bottom of the inning after loading the bases on two walks and a double-clutched throw to third by pitcher Jose Mijares on a bunt that left everybody safe.
Tom Wilhelmsen was cruising in the ninth until a two-out single and then a Lorenzo Cain triple to right lost in the sun by Casper Wells made it a one-run game again. But Wilhelmsen got Gordon to ground out, securing the first victory for Millwood since May 23.
"It was nice; yeah, it's been a while," said Millwood, victimized by poor run support of late.
Millwood quipped that his "computer's broke" so he hasn't been paying attention to trade rumors.
"You know, I really haven't thought about it," he said. "I try not to worry too much about things I can't control, and that's one of them."
Since his prior victory in Texas, Millwood's offense had scored two runs or fewer in seven of his past 10 starts. And the way this game was shaping up, things might have ended differently had Ryan not been on his toes defensively.
"Those tight games, you want to make them all because you never know what's going to happen," Ryan said. "Especially when every ball that went up in the air today seemed right in the sun for whatever reason."
Ryan's racing catch near the line in shallow left field in the fifth — right in front of a charging Robinson — probably saved Millwood from a double by the ultra-speedy Jarrod Dyson. Then came Ryan's two-out play in the sixth on a grounder deep in the hole by Betancourt, in which the shortstop made a spinning leap in the grass and fired a one-hop strike to Carp at first base.
"I'd still like to make a better throw," Ryan said. "That might have been the toughest part of the play — Carp's pick."
Mariners manager Eric Wedge wasn't complaining about style points after Millwood finally got one of his stronger performances rewarded with a victory.
"The starting pitching's been very consistent for us," said Wedge, who's seen his starters go 7-1 with a 1.58 earned-run average the past 10 outings. "These guys have done a nice job of giving us opportunities to win, and that's all we can ask of them."
Geoff Baker: 206-464-8286 or firstname.lastname@example.org.