Sports

Struggles continue for M's pitchers

MINNEAPOLIS – Poor pitching isn’t new to the Seattle Mariners, the team with the American League’s worst record.

On Sunday, however, their pitching was achingly bad – record-setting in its ineptitude – and managed to offset all comeback hopes in an 11-8 loss to the Minnesota Twins.

How bad was it?

The Mariners used five pitchers in eight innings, and in that span they combined to allow the Twins 17 hits and 10 walks. They threw four wild pitches – all in one inning – and included a passed ball.

For the second game in a row, they spotted the Twins a 5-0 lead, and by the sixth inning trailed, 8-0.

And then, this goofy team roared back.

“The way we’re swinging the bats, you never feel out of the game no matter what the score,” Raul Ibañez said. “I thought we had a chance, and we did.”

With Ibañez going 5-for-5 to lead a 16-hit attack, the Mariners made it more than a little interesting, and before Twins closer Joe Nathan got the final out for his 33rd save, Seattle had the bases loaded and Ichiro Suzuki at the plate.

“When we got Ichiro up there in the ninth inning in that situation, I thought ‘You know, we might pull this out,’ ” manager Jim Riggleman said.

Ichiro grounded out on the first pitch.

Still, there was a certain flair to the Mariners’ 77th loss. First, of course, was that bizarre pitching. And then three home runs in an inning, with Adrian Beltre, Wladimir Balentien and Kenji Johjima going deep in the sixth.

That got the Twins’ attention, cutting their lead to 8-4.

For all that offense, for all that never-say-quit attitude, Mariners pitchers could not stop Minnesota. All five pitchers walked at least one batter, and only one reliever –Miguel Batista – didn’t allow a run.

“We took our lumps,” Riggleman said.

Starting with Ryan Feierabend, who arrived from Tacoma with sparkling statistics, then pitched on three days rest and, as he said, and was hammered.

Nine pitches into his first big league start in nearly a year, Feierabend had given up a single, double and a walk to load he bases. The Twins wouldn’t let him catch his breath, and used five hits to take a 5-0 first-inning lead.

“I don’t throw 95 mph, so I can’t blow it by guys,” Feierabend said. “In and out, I was putting the ball where I wanted, but up and down? I was leaving pitches up, and they hit them.”

“He’s a finesse pitcher and he’d never pitched on three days rest,” Riggleman said. “We’ll give him his regular routine and run him back out there in five days.”

Feierabend got through three innings and left, down 6-0.

R.A. Dickey, who will start Wednesday against the Chicago White Sox, was brought in to relieve. In 1ª innings, he made history – and had catcher Johjima shaking his head.

Dickey threw four wild pitches in the fifth inning, two of them allowing runs to score from third base, and Johjima was also charged with a passed ball. It was a case of the knuckleball working a little too well.

“When you have a good knuckleball, it’s tough to catch,” Riggleman said. “It’s tough to catch in the bullpen, tough to catch in between innings and tough to catch when the umpire says ‘Play ball.’ ”

Johjima would agree. He tried, but couldn’t corral any of the wild pitches or the passed ball. Those four wild pitches tied a major league record shared now by six pitchers, the last one being Ryan Madson of the Phillies on July 25, 2006.

The pitching allowed Minnesota to sweep the three-game series, and in those three games Seattle starting pitchers allowed 20 runs in 11ª innings.

If the starting pitching was consistent, so was Ibañez, who seems to have purchased the month of August. His five-hit performance Sunday – his career high is six – left him batting .413 this month.

In 15 August games, he has eight doubles, a triple, four home runs and 20 RBI. With his second double of the game against the Twins, he set a single-season career high with 38 two-base hits.

“I’m feeling balanced at the plate, seeing the ball real well,” Ibañez said. “I’d like to keep this going the rest of the season.”

And then he dropped an endorsement on Riggleman.

“The reason we think we can come back? A lot of it is Riggleman,” he said. “He’s on top of everything, he stays on us and gives you no choice but to battle and keep battling.

“I really believe we’re close to a turnaround on this team. We’re playing all these close games against good teams. We just need to find a way to win those.”

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