Rookie Brandon Maurer appeared he may be past poor first innings. His last three outings had him decidedly heading in the right direction, when he had a 1.89 ERA. Also, during his last 17 innings, Maurer had allowed just three earned runs. He surpassed that total six hitters into Tuesday night’s 7-2 loss to the Orioles.
Nate McLouth led-off the game with a homer. Maurer was disgusted with the pitch postgame.
“It was a terrible pitch,” Maurer said. “I tried to throw a two-seam inside and it just stayed up, right down the middle.”
He allowed four runs in the first, was very effective in the second and third when facing the minimum, then had a grind in the fourth. One of the most important things for Maurer is he made it out of the dismal first, something he could not do in his first Safeco start when he lasted just 2/3. The Mariners had Blake Beavan, who replaced Maurer to start the fifth, up in the first inning.
“You’ve got to give your starting pitcher a chance to get you through the ballgame,” manager Eric Wedge said. “If you have to go to your bullpen in the second inning, it’s something that’s going to hurt you for a long time. It worked out for us because he was able to throw up three zeroes. Not to mention the mental side of things for him. He can go home tonight feeling like he did do a better job this time than he did in that start earlier in the year when he didn’t get through it. Those are all steps.”
Interesting take on how to handle Maurer from veteran catch Kelly Shoppach. Despite Maurer making just his sixth career start, Shoppach isn’t about to hold his hand, because he doesn’t feel the need.
“It’s not like he’s a baby,” Shoppach said. “He’s a grown man, learning here at the big league level. I think he would tell you the same thing. ‘I’m a man, I can take it and go out there and compete.’ That’s one thing that he has that what we can’t teach is his competitive nature, and the way he has no fear out there on the mound. That’s a great base for him to have. For him to compete the way he does makes us feel pretty good every time he goes out.”
Shoppach was simple in his assessment of Maurer tonight. He said the righty simply didn’t execute well, particularly in the first. They quickly shifted to Maurer’s off-speed stuff when the Orioles showed they were going to swing at any early fastball and had success doing so.
As for the other side of things, the Mariners came up with 10 hits, though just two runs. They had the bases loaded and none out in the sixth, but scored just a run on Shoppach’s fielder’s choice grounder. Brendan Ryan broke his bat when hitting into a double-play to end the inning.
At the time, Baltimore had replaced starter Jason Hammel with right-hander Tommy Hunter. The Mariners had Raul Ibanez on the bench. Here’s Wedge’s explanation of why he didn’t pinch-hit there for Ryan (.149):
“Same situation we had later in the game,” Wedge said. “It was going to be a left-on-left situation. Where the game was, you’re hoping that you have a better situation later in and it’s a closer ball game. If you go there in the sixth inning, it’s a two-player move, it’s a left-on-left situation. Even best-case scenario you’re going to still be down by a couple runs.”
It was 6-2 when Ryan stepped to the plate. Wedge was referring to when he pinch-hit Ibanez later in the game, and the Orioles brought in a lefty Brian Matusz to face him. Ibanez popped out.
The good news from the hitting side: Mike Morse hit his eighth homer, Justin Smoak hit three balls hard and walked in a 2-for-3 night, Dustin Ackley was 2-for-4 to extend his hitting streak to 10 games and Kyle Seager had another knock, which gives him a hit in 18 of 19 games.
Among AL teams, the Mariners are 11th in average and 13th in OPS. They’re eighth in home runs with 29, 15 of which have come on the road.