PITTSBURGH — The Seattle Mariners, handcuffed at the plate again, had precious few opportunities Tuesday in their first interleague game of the season.
So when a semblance of a rally finally arose in the seventh inning, manager Eric Wedge tried to choke every bit of production out of it he could.
By the time the inning ended, Wedge had used four-fifths of his bench—and the Mariners got one run out of it. That was the extent of their scoring as they fell 4-1 to the Pirates at PNC Park.
“That was the one inning we had a chance to do something,” Wedge said. “We were going to try to take every opportunity we could. Knowing where the matchups were, we got the matchups we wanted. We pushed it and we tried to do everything we could to try to make it work there. We just came up a little bit short.”
When the inning began, the Mariners trailed 2-0, both runs coming in the first against Aaron Harang, who settled down and shut out the Pirates for the next five innings. The Mariners, however, could do nothing against last-minute Pirates starter Jeanmar Gomez, who took the mound when scheduled starter James McDonald was scratched and put on the disabled list with a shoulder injury.
Gomez blanked the Mariners on two hits over five innings, but facing reliever Tony Watson in the seventh, Dustin Ackley reached on a one-out single and moved to second on a ground out.
That’s when the wheels started turning. Wedge sent up Jesus Montero to hit for Brendan Ryan, and Pirates manager Clint Hurdle countered by bringing in veteran Jose Contreras, a right-hander. Wedge promptly called back Montero and pinch-hit with left-handed Raul Ibanez, who was 9 for 15 off Contreras in his career.
Sure enough, Ibanez laced the first pitch he saw to the gap in right-center, scoring Ackley. Robert Andino ran for Ibanez, and Endy Chavez pinch-hit for Harang, leaving Kendrys Morales as the only remaining reserve on the Mariners’ bench. Chavez grounded back to the pitcher, and the threat ended.
“I was figuring if we were going to have a chance to win the game, we were going to come around to the pitcher again, and we had Morales there waiting,” Wedge said. “We’re not looking to tie, we’re looking to win, so we wanted to make sure we had someone there who was able to do that. But you have to put something together to be able to get to that spot.”
And the Mariners, for the second game in a row, had trouble putting anything together. After managing just three hits in their loss to Toronto on Sunday, they cobbled together just five hits in this one.
They were put in a tough position by having to face an unfamiliar pitcher on short notice, but Gomez was designated for assignment by Cleveland over the offseason and came into the game with a career 5.01 earned-run average.
“It’s always tough, especially when you haven’t faced any of these guys before, being in a different league,” Ackley said of the late pitching change. “But it’s something that’s going to continue to happen. There will always be new guys to face. You have to adjust.”
Gomez gave up just singles by Michael Saunders and Justin Smoak, striking out five.
“It wasn’t anything crazy,” Ackley said of Gomez’s stuff. “He located things well. It doesn’t matter what kind of stuff you have if you locate it, move it up and down, in and out, you’re going to have success, and he did that tonight. It was a pretty good performance, especially with a guy who didn’t know he was starting until a couple of hours before the game. That was big-time for those guys.”
The Pirates’ one-run lead, meanwhile, was extended to three when Garrett Jones reached reliever Carter Capps for a two-run homer with two outs in the eighth and a 2-2 count.
“It’s tough that late,” Wedge said. “You’re working hard to keep it a one-run game. You feel if you do keep it to a one-run game, you’ve got a chance. Anything can happen in the ninth inning. But the guy put up a good at-bat, and fought through it, got a good pitch to hit and took care of it.”
Capps said of the pitch to Jones, “Shoppy (catcher Kelly Shoppach) said it was middle in. It looked more middle middle to me. It was just over the plate. Can’t happen.”
Jones is left-handed, and lefties are now 8 for 20 with three doubles and two homers off Capps this season. He realizes he needs to make an adjustment.
“Just get them looking for something besides a fastball,” he said. “Right now, they’re just sitting dead red on the fastball and taking uncomfortable swings on everything else. I just didn’t execute with that fastball.”