Saturday, May 15, 2010

MARINERS: M’s lose 3-2 by way of walk-off homer vs. Rays

By Kyle Fosnes
The Mariners showed a strong display Saturday afternoon but could not take advantage of another superior pitching performance from Jason Vargas. Seattle fell 3-2 to the Tampa Bay Rays after a walf-off homerun by Willy Aybar, resulting in another tough loss.

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Vargas pitched another terrific game, going 7.0 innings allowing just 4 hits and 2 runs, striking out and walking 2. This was Jason’s sixth consecutive quality start, as he has nearly solidified his role in the M’s starting rotation.

The Mariners continued to show off their moderately-effective offense by scoring in the first inning for the second straight game. In the forth inning, Mike Sweeney hit a solo homerun stretching the lead 2-0. This was Sweeney’s third consecutive game with a homerun, totaling three on the season and showing some offensive production from the DH spot.

The Mariner offense was quickly shut down after the Sweeney homer; Rays’ starter James Shields retired the next 12 batters. Shields did not factor into the decision but pitched dominantly, throwing eight innings giving up 6 hits and 2 runs, while striking out 10 and not allowing a single walk.

Unfortunately, once the Seattle bullpen became a factor to the game in the eighth inning, the lead disappeared. Vargas got himself into a jam with two runners on and no outs, resulting in Brandon League entering to hold the lead. This was not the case as the Rays managed four consecutive hits in the inning, eventually leading to a Ben Zobrist sac-fly to tie the game off relief pitcher Sean White.

The score was then tied at 2-2 until the bottom of the ninth where Aybar belted a 401-foot drive over the right field fence and was met at home-plate by a victorious Rays team. Jesus Colome inherited the loss as he threw only seven pitches, the last ending in the Tropicana Field seats.

One positive that can be taken away from this loss is the maturation of the M’s starting pitchers. Coming into the 2010 season it was known the front two starters would be solid, but the questions lied in the remaining three. These three other starters, including Fister and Vargas, have shown they can pitch just as well as the two starters at the top of the rotation. This is a positive sign as reports are saying the return of Eric Bedard will occur sometime next month.

The Mariners close their series against the Rays on Sunday in Tampa Bay. First pitch is at 10:40am and will feature Seattle’s Cliff Lee (1-1, 2.01) facing Matt Garza (5-1, 2.49) for TB, in what should be a classic pitching duel.

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