CHICAGO — Even if it was the friendliest of wagers, betting that the Mariners would beat the White Sox on Friday night at U.S. Cellular Field could easily be deemed as foolish.
Even hours before the first pitch was thrown, Seattle’s chances of winning fell somewhere between “slim” and “stranger things have happened.”
Yes, the Mariners are as hot as any team in baseball, but sometimes the matchups just don’t work in a team’s favor. It was evident going into the game and it was proved with a 7-1 defeat against Chicago.
Why were the odds so stacked against Seattle?
Well, the White Sox were starting Chris Sale and the Mariners had six left-handed hitters in their lineup. Sale, a certain All-Star, is tough enough as it is, coming into the game with a 7-1 record and 2.30 ERA. But he is death on left-handed hitters. Lefties had gotten just four hits — two each from Gregor Blanco of Texas and Josh Hamilton of Anaheim — in Sale’s 12 starts this season.
Most teams start right-handed heavy lineups against him, but the Mariners don’t have that luxury.
With a lopsided left-handed roster, manager Lloyd McClendon had little choice but to play the lefties. The results were predictable.
Kyle Seager, Logan Morrison and Michael Saunders did get hits off Sale to push his number of hits to lefties to seven on the season. But Seattle did little else against the White Sox ace.
Sale pitched the White Sox’s first complete game of the season, giving up just one run on six hits while striking out 12 batters.
The Mariners mustered little against him. The best chance came in the sixth inning. They got runners on first and second with no outs. But Sale struck out James Jones. The runners advanced into scoring position, but Sale struck out Robinson Cano on a nasty 2-2 slider to end the inning and the threat.
The Mariners got their one run in the ninth thanks to a little help from Dayan Viciedo. Willie Bloomquist led off with a single. With one out, Viciedo misplayed Cano’s soft liner to left field. A possible catch or even a single was turned into a double as the ball got by him. Corey Hart scored Bloomquist with a sacrifice fly to right.
While Sale dominated, Mariners’ starter Roenis Elias struggled, giving up five runs in five innings and finding out how much U.S. Cellular and its jet stream to left field can be such a miserable place to pitch in.
A pair of his Cuban counterparts did the bulk of the damage. Viciedo, a player the Mariners are rumored to be scouting for a possible trade, blasted a solo homer to left field in the fourth inning to give Chicago a 1-0 lead. It was his first of four hits on the night. In the fifth inning, rookie first baseman Jose Abreu continued his magical season, blasting a two-run homer — his 27th of the season — to highlight a four-run inning. Elias also gave up a run-scoring double to Adam Eaton and a sacrifice fly to Gordon Beckham.
That big inning would be Elias’ last for the night. McClendon finished the game by using a different pitcher out of the bullpen each inning. The White Sox tacked on two more in the eighth when Paul Konerko belted a two-run homer