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Saturday, July 7, 2012 - Page updated at 11:30 p.m.
Mariners sunk again by lack of offense in 4-1 loss to A's in 11 innings
By Geoff Baker
Seattle Times staff reporter
OAKLAND, Calif. — At least a couple of young Mariners hitters could be Class AAA-bound next week as the team looks to shake up its plummeting offensive ranks.
Mariners manager Eric Wedge hinted strongly after a 4-1 loss in 11 innings Friday night to the Oakland Athletics that some of his younger hitters will soon be in the minors. Wedge did not name anyone specifically, but the continued poor plate appearances by Justin Smoak and Dustin Ackley figured prominently in this latest defeat.
The Mariners failed to score in the final 10 innings of a game in which Kevin Millwood tossed seven frames of scoreless, three-hit ball. Oakland tied it in the eighth off Tom Wilhelmsen, then pinch-hitter Chris Carter drilled a walkoff, three-run homer off Steve Delabar to end it in the 11th.
"You've got to be patient with young players, because it doesn't happen right away," Wedge said postgame. "But ultimately, we need to make sure that if certain guys aren't getting it, then maybe we need to make some changes.
"We've been contemplating this for a while," he added. "You'd like to see them get it done and make the adjustments up here, because if you send them out and bring them back up, they still have to go through some things they have to go through.
"But if they push our hand, then it is what it is. And that's pretty much where we are right now."
The Mariners saw Millwood match his season high with seven strikeouts in his first start after leaving a June 27 contest against Oakland in the third inning. Millwood was said to have torn some scar tissue around a groin he'd previously strained.
Millwood said he felt fine throughout this contest, but that his leg began to tire in the seventh inning. The Mariners pulled him there on 95 pitches.
"It never hurt at all but it felt a little tired," he said. "It was probably the right move to take me out right there. But for those seven innings, I felt I could do anything I wanted to do."
And he pretty much did, silencing the crowd of 10,819 at the Coliseum.
The Mariners had taken a 1-0 lead in the first inning against A's left-hander Tommy Milone, with Michael Saunders and Miguel Olivo notching singles. Kyle Seager then delivered a two-out single to center to bring in the run.
The offense shut down after that, as Milone cruised through seven innings while striking out a career-high nine.
The Mariners had a couple of chances in which they got a runner to second base against Milone after that opening frame. But nothing came of it, and the bullpen could not hold the lead once Millwood left the game.
In the eighth, Charlie Furbush yielded a one-out double off the top of the right-field wall to pinch-hitter Brandon Hicks. Wilhelmsen came on to pitch with two out, and Jemile Weeks hit a tying single up the middle.
It was the first blown save for Wilhelmsen since May 4. He'd converted seven saves in a row before the hit.
Oliver Perez gave up a pair of hits in the 11th, then Delabar watched his 0-1 fastball to Carter get destroyed. Left fielder Casper Wells barely budged as the ball flew well beyond the wall.
Delabar had wanted to throw the fastball down, but left it up.
"Coming in late like that, you've got to be perfect and I wasn't perfect," Delabar said.
But that's part of the problem Wedge easily identified after the game. His hitters are forcing the pitching staff to be perfect every time out, and it's just not working.
"What's most frustrating about it is that these guys had it there for a while," Wedge said, referring to a road stint in late May and early June in which the offense scored by the bucketload. "They showed you what they were capable of doing and more importantly, they proved to themselves what they had to do to be successful.
"So unless they're just not paying attention, or just dumb, they should be able to find a way to get back to it and be more consistent."
And it sounds like Wedge, general manager Jack Zduriencik and company are prepared to send some of them on a new way — through the minors.
"It's just been Groundhog Day too many times for me," Wedge said. "We're not going to keep watching people do the same thing over and over again and live with it."
Geoff Baker: 206-464-8286 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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