Batista's wacky quality start for naught
Starter give up three runs in six innings, but Sox roll in finale
SEATTLE -- Mariners right-hander Miguel Batista threw 110 pitches on Sunday afternoon, and almost half of them (53) missed the strike zone.That led to a lot of standing around on defense, waiting for something to happen. But nothing good happened to the Mariners -- on offense or defense -- as they dropped a 9-2 decision to the Red Sox in front of a season-high 46,377 at Safeco Field. The loss dropped the Mariners 3 1/2 games behind the Angels in the American League West, but Seattle (60-49) remained one-half game behind the Tigers (and tied with the Yankees) in the Wild Card race. "That was a very ugly game," manager John McLaren said. "It was just a sloppy game and we haven't had many of those, thank goodness. We just need to forget about it and put it behind us." Whether it was Batista playing catch with catcher Jamie Burke, or the sleek Blue Angels buzzing the stadium a couple of times, the Mariners never seemed to have their minds entirely on the visiting Red Sox. There were physical and mental mistakes galore in the series finale, which ended a 10-game homestand. Considering where they were when it started -- on a six-game losing streak -- the Mariners came through one of their most difficult homestands of the season in decent shape. After losing the opener of a four-game series against the Athletics, the Mariners won six of their next seven games against the A's and Angels, before losing back-to-back games to the Red Sox to end that three-game series. "Everybody asked coming in if this was the biggest homestand of the year, and I think we handled it real well," McLaren said. "We played some tough teams and competed well." Batista competed without his best stuff. "Miggy just wasn't in sync today," McLaren said. "It looked like he didn't have a consistent release point, [but] he hung in there and gave us some innings." The power of perseverance prevailed and Batista had, by definition, a "quality start." Anytime a starting pitcher goes at least six innings and allows three or fewer runs, it qualifies. Batista has 12 of them this season, but few as wacky as this one. He needed 34 pitches to make it out of the first inning and had thrown 82 pitches by the end of four innings. Even so, he kept Seattle in the game and departed after six innings with the Mariners trailing by only two runs. "I was trying to be too fine on some of the pitches," Batista (11-8) explained. "I knew [Josh] Beckett was out there, so you knew it would be a low-scoring game. And when you try to be too fine, that's what happens. You go ball three, ball four and then you have to change your approach." He matched his single-game high with five walks, but throwing the ball down the middle didn't work so well one time, either. A Manny Ramirez home run in the fifth inning provided the final run off Batista and Beckett worked 6 2/3 innings for the win, becoming the AL's third 14-game winner. The Red Sox rocked Seattle's bullpen, scoring two runs in the seventh, three in the eighth and one in the ninth, making the rubber match of the three-game series a rout. Seattle scored its first run of the game in the sixth inning, when catcher Jamie Burke, robbed of a hit in the fourth inning on a diving catch by second baseman Alex Cora, dumped a single into right field to score Ben Broussard. The Mariners also had scoring chances against Beckett, putting two runners on base in the first, third and fourth innings. But back-to-back strikeouts of Broussard and Adrian Beltre ended the third inning and Raul Ibanez's snooze at second base produced an inning-ending pickoff in the fourth with Ichiro Suzuki batting. As it turned out, Ichiro went 0-for-5 for the second consecutive game -- just the fifth time all season that he has gone hitless in back-to-back games. His season-high skid is three games -- April 10-11-13. Batista's first-inning difficulties were compounded when center fielder Adam Jones dropped Ramirez's high fly ball at the warning track for a run-producing error. Jones, promoted from Triple-A Tacoma prior to Friday night's series opener against the Red Sox, was in center in place of Ichiro -- the designated hitter for a day. "That's the first time I have done that all season, and it had to be here," Jones said. "There was no reason, no excuses. It just went off the end of my glove." Jones, the fourth player to start at least one game in center field this season, became the first to make an error. Ichiro is error-free in 103 games and 303 total chances, Willie Bloomquist has cleanly handled all eight plays he's had in his seven starts, and Jason Ellison was error-free in his 10 fielding chances in seven starts. "That doesn't happen very often," said Batista of the Jones error. "He's part of the future of this organization, so he has to be out there and get used to it." The fly ball would have scored a run, anyway, but forced Batista to work a little harder. A bases-loaded walk to Red Sox catcher Jason Varitek forced home the second run of the inning. Batista wobbled again in the second inning, when Boston loaded the bases with one out, but he escaped unscathed, thanks to getting Ramirez to bounce into an inning-ending double play. Ramirez retaliated in the fifth inning with his 19th home run, a solo shot into the seats in center. Though McLaren said the performance was "disappointing," the fact Brandon Morrow and Ryan Rowland-Smith were effective pitching on back-to-back nights was encouraging. "We need that in September, and I was happy to see the stuff they brought the second day," McLaren said. "We also rested J.J. [Putz] and George [Sherrill]. "Besides that, not too many things went right. We're all disappointed. We had a full house and we wanted to win the series, but it didn't happen. Now, we move on to Baltimore and need to pick it up on the road."
Jim Street is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.