Morrow blows lead in M's loss
He kept shaking and scratching his head, searching for answers, wondering why he couldn't throw the ball over the plate. This problem is nothing...
Seattle Times staff reporter
CHICAGO — He kept shaking and scratching his head, searching for answers, wondering why he couldn't throw the ball over the plate.
This problem is nothing new for Mariners relief pitcher Brandon Morrow. The only difference Thursday afternoon was that Morrow's electric arm finally failed to bail him out.
A Seattle squad carried by its bullpen for much of the past month got dropped with a thud in a 5-4 loss to the Chicago Cubs. As a result, a winnable game and series passed the Mariners by as they grapple with the possibility that the first stages of bullpen burnout are setting in.
Morrow doesn't buy that argument. Neither does his manager. Both say the rookie is as strong as ever and simply not throwing the ball where he wants.
"I've just been walking too many people," Morrow said. "And today was the first time where it came and got me."
It got Jeff Weaver as well. The Mariners starter was six outs away from his first victory of 2007 when Morrow replaced George Sherrill to begin the eighth, with Seattle leading 4-3.
Seattle seemed poised to win despite managing only three hits and scoring all of its runs after an error by Cubs third baseman Mark DeRosa on a potential inning-ending, double-play grounder in the sixth.
But two walks, a sacrifice bunt and a two-run double by slap-hitting Cesar Izturis later, Weaver's victory was gone. The Mariners went down 1-2-3 in the ninth to fall five games behind the American League West-leading Los Angeles Angels and into a second-place tie with the Oakland Athletics.
Morrow has walked seven batters over a span of 2-2/3 innings in his last three appearances. For the season, he has walked 26 batters in just 25-1/3 innings despite a 2.49 earned-run average.
"I don't know," Morrow said when asked if he could explain it. "I've got to find the strike zone a little better. Be a little more aggressive in the zone."
Morrow didn't get the calls from plate umpire Tim McClelland on a couple of borderline pitches that had been called strikes earlier in the game. But Morrow didn't think he was unduly victimized by the umpire.
"Yeah, borderline," he said of a couple of the pitches. "But when you throw the other ones a foot and a half out of the strike zone, they don't give you those."
Hargrove agreed that his rookie pitcher, just a year out of college, has been off target of late. But he disputes the notion Morrow, used three times in the last four games, is wearing down.
For one thing, he said, Morrow isn't exhibiting the telltale signs of a burned-out pitcher.
"He wasn't getting up in the strike zone," Hargrove said.
For now, the Mariners will simply work with Morrow on throwing strikes and figure this was a game that had to come. Seattle had been 30-0 when leading after seven innings before Thursday.
Earlier in the game, Weaver's shaky first inning made that statistic seem irrelevant. Weaver gave up two triples, a double, a single, three runs and a couple of hard-hit outs.
But he found his rhythm the second and third time through the order. While he still gave up hits, many were softer, and some timely outs helped him escape jams with multiple runners on in the third and sixth.
"That's the thing, especially with starting pitchers," Weaver said. "You want to get through that lineup the first time, see exactly what their approach is, what they're going to be doing up there and make the adjustments."
It was Weaver's first "quality start" — at least six innings with three or fewer runs allowed — all season.
"Every start's important," he said. "I'm trying to win ballgames for the club. When you come back from the layoff [on the disabled list], obviously you want to see some results right away. You've seen that. I think I've felt better each time since then."
Weaver kept the score 3-0 until the Mariners finally rallied. Cubs starter Jason Marquis had allowed only one hit through five innings when he drilled Weaver on the hand to start the sixth.
Weaver scored on the DeRosa error. An ensuing walk to Guillen loaded the bases, and Raul Ibanez cleared them with a double to left-center — giving Seattle four runs on just one hit.
It was almost enough to win. Until Morrow couldn't find the strike zone.
"There were a couple of pitches that were borderline, but we can't use that as an excuse," Mariners catcher Jamie Burke said. "We've got to go back to throwing strikes. It was just one of those days. Brandon's picked us up plenty of times, and you're going to have those days once in a while."
Geoff Baker: 206-464-8286 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Read his daily blog at www.seattletimes.com/Mariners
|Wild and crazy guy|
|Mariners rookie reliever Brandon Morrow has struggled with his control this season, particularly in recent starts:|
|June 14||Cubs 5, Mariners 4||0.1||2|
|June 12||Mariners 5, Cubs 3*||0.1||1|
|June 11||Mariners 4, Padres 3||2.0||4|
|*Seattle won in 13 innings|
Sam and Sara Lucchese create handmade pasta out of their kitchen-garage adjacent to their Ballard home. Here, they illustrate the final steps in making pappardelle pasta.