I’m not going to get into a major debate about moving in the fences at Safeco Field tonight. That’s for another day. But maybe if the fences were just a few feet shorter, or if Josh Hamilton wasn’t quite as good of a player, the Seattle Mariners might have extended their winning streak to five games.
But on a crisp May night with temperatures in the 50s when the ball simply doesn’t travel at Safeco Field, a pair of hard hit flyballs simply didn’t have enough distance to carry over the fence or at least out of the reach of the Texas Rangers’ all-star center fielder.
So instead of potentially having five or six runs, the Mariners only managed one in a 3-1 loss to Texas.
“A couple of balls that I thought were going to get out of the ballpark and that would have made a big difference,” Mariners manager Eric Wedge said.
But fly balls go to die left-center and center particularly in the cold spring months. It’s something that Wedge has learned quickly.
“I felt like they both had a chance,” Wedge said. “But they were hit to the biggest part of the ballpark and just didn’t get out of here.”
The first one that had a chance came in the first inning after the Mariners already led 1-0. Casper Wells had the bases loaded and two outs, and drove a ball to the left-center gap. But Hamilton ran it down and caught it some 400 feet from home plate.
In over half the parks in baseball that’s a homer. Instead, it was an out. Harrison and the Rangers escaped with just the one run.
And one run simply doesn’t cut it against the Rangers, who have not been shutout this season.
Texas kept that streak alive in the third inning. Mariners’ starter Hector Noesi gave up a lead-off walk to Nelson Cruz and a one-out walk to Mitch Moreland. Noesi looked like he might get out of his self-made trouble when get Ian Kinsler to pop up and got ahead of Elvis Andrus in the count, 1-2. However, he hung a curveball to Andrus, who hit it into the gap for a two-run triple.
“It was a mistake,” Noesi said later.
When asked where he was trying to throw the curveball, Noesi replied, “The ground.”
Hamilton then dropped in a ground rule double to left to score Andrus to push the lead to 3-1.
The second extra base-hit/possible homer that was taken away from the Mariners came in the bottom of the inning. Hamilton made a fantastic leaping catch on a ball that Liddi smoked to dead center.
“I hit it pretty good, and I thought it was going to go out,” Liddi said. “But he made a good play and caught it.”
Said Rangers manager Ron Washington on Safeco: “It says 405 out there, but it plays like 445.”
Liddi hasn’t played in a ton of games at Safeco in his young career. But he’s been here long enough to know that few homers are a sure thing. Neither his nor Wells’ hits were the first to be swallowed up by Safeco’s space and marine air, and they won’t be the last.
“That’s how it goes,” he said. “This is our field and it’s like that. We have to get used to it and make an adjustment.”
Credit to Noesi for not imploding after the third inning. He came back and retired 16 of the next 17 batters he faced after the Hamilton double. He gave the Mariners a chance to win. Seattle had a few opportunities but never capitalized.
They got runners on first and third with two outs in the fifth. Third base coach Jeff Datz held hustling Brendan Ryan at third when Adrian Beltre booted a ball hit by Liddi. The ball scooted from Beltre into the outfield, and Ryan looked as though he might have been able to make it. Wedge said the angle was tough to see for Datz. But his third base coach shouldered the blame.
“Brendan did his job, but I stopped him,” Datz said. “I screwed it up. I feel lousy.”
Still making the third out at home plate with their No. 3 hitter up wasn’t a bad situation for the Mariners. But Ichiro Suzuki softly grounded into a force play to end the inning.
Against a tiring Harrison in the eighth, Liddi and Ichiro started off the inning with singles. Rangers manager Ron Washington called on hard throwing set-up man Mike Adams, who ended the threat quickly. Adams got Jesus Montero to fly out to right and then struck out Smoak and Kyle Seager to end the inning and the Mariners’ victory hopes.
- The Rangers 27-17 record through 44 games is tied for the 2nd best in club history (also: 1995, 1996)…best record through 44 games is 28-16 in 1998.
- Matt Harrison went 7.0+ innings limiting Seattle to 1 run on 7 hits…in his career vs. Seattle, Harrison is 7-1 with a 2.54 ERA (20 ER, 71.0 IP) in 14 games (10 starts)…Harrison has made 6 appearances (4 starts) at Safeco Field going 4-0 with a 1.26 ERA (4 ER, 28.2 IP).
- Joe Nathan has retired his last 13 batters faced and has allowed just 1 earned run in his last 14 games with a 0.61 ERA (1 ER, 14.2)
- Elvis Andrus went 1-for-4 with 2 RBI, 1 triple, and 1 runs scored… in May, Andrus is batting .369 (31×84) with 5 doubles, 2 triple, 11 RBI, and 16 runs scored.
- The Rangers bullpen has given up just 5 ER in the last 8 games (26.0 innings) for a 1.73 ERA over that span… Rangers snapped 15-game home run struck snapped tonight…it was the 4th longest such streak in team history
- David Murphy went 0-for-4 and snapped his hitting streak at 6 games…during the streak he was batting .316 (6×19) with 4 runs, 1 double, 2 home runs and 5 RBI.
- Hector Noesi went 8.0 innings giving up 3 runs on 3 hits, his fourth quality start…Noesi set a career-high with 7 strikeouts…over his last 4 starts, Noesi has a 3.18 ERA (10 ER, 28.1 IP) with 21 strikeouts limiting opponents to a .176 (18×102) batting average, going at least 6.1 innings in each start.
- Noesi gave up just 2 hits to right handers…right handed hitters are hitting just .179 (15×84) on the season vs. Noesi.
- Noesi became the 4th pitcher this season with 8.0 innings pitched vs. Texas (last: Felix Hernandez 5/21).
- Seattle starters are 4-2, 2.08 ERA (10 ER, 43.1 IP) with 34 strikeouts over their last 6 starts…have tossed at least 7.0 innings in 4 of the 6 games and at least 8.0 innings in 3 of the 6…during the 6-game run, have held opponents to a .182 (28×154) batting average….Felix Hernandez & Hector Noesi have each tossed at least 8.0 innings the last two games, first time Mariners starters have had back-to-back 8.0 inning performances since Aug. 6-7, 2011 at LAA (Beavan & Hernandez).
- Ichiro got his 291st and 292nd career hits vs. Texas (12 seasons), passing George Brett (291/21 seasons) for the most career hits vs. the Rangers since the team moved to Texas in 1972.
- Brendan Ryan recorded his 6th multi-hit game of the season, going 2-for-5…over his last 6 games, Ryan is batting .364 (8×22) with 1 triple, 1 RBI, and 3 runs scored
- Lucas Luetge has not allowed an earned run in his first 16 major league appearances (10.2 IP), extending his Mariners record for appearances to begin a career without giving up an earned run.
- Seattle snapped a season high 4-game winning streak with the loss tonight.