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05/21/08 9:46 PM ET
Washburn hit hard as Mariners fall
Rally comes up short after left-hander allows nine runs
By Jim Street / MLB.com
DETROIT -- Left-hander Jarrod Washburn returned to the Mariners' starting rotation on Wednesday night and it was like he never left. After being skipped for one start following a rocky outing against the White Sox at Safeco Field on May 10 -- he surrendered seven earned runs in five innings -- Washburn was back on the hill at Comerica Park for the second game of a three-game series against the Tigers. This one was even rockier than the last. Washburn lasted 2 1/3 innings, surrendered two runs in the second inning, seven runs in the third, and absorbed the loss in Seattle's 9-4 setback to Detroit in front of 36,495. Shortstop Yuniesky Betancourt and first baseman Richie Sexson hit solo home runs for the Mariners, who lost for the ninth time in their last 10 road games and fell 11 games under .500 for the first time this season. The month of May has been especially brutal for Seattle's starting pitchers. They have a combined record of 3-12 and a composite 7.27 ERA in May, compared to a 10-10 record and 3.65 ERA in April. All this from a five-man rotation that Mel Stottlemyre called "potentially" the best he has worked with during his 20-plus seasons as a Major League pitching coach. "To have guys of this caliber struggling as much as some of them have has got me baffled," Stottlemyre said. "It's hard to explain. We can't seem to get going as a rotation. We get a couple of well-pitched games and you think we're on our way, and then run into a game like tonight (or Tuesday night) where the starter gets beat up pretty good and we have to go to the bullpen early." The last time Seattle (18-29) had back-to-back wins from its starters was April 16-17 against the Athletics in Oakland. It extended the Mariners' winning streak to three games, which remains the high-water mark for the season. "It seems like we're behind the eight-ball almost every night," manager John McLaren said. "When you're behind, 9-1 ... it's not good." The eight-ball arrived early on Wednesday night. The first five batters in the third inning reached base on singles and the station-to-station march netted the Tigers two runs. And then one swing from Marcus Thames produced four runs via a grand slam. An ensuing triple and single produced the seventh -- and final -- run of the inning, and Washburn departed. "I had good stuff and made some good pitches," Washburn (2-6, 6.99 ERA) said. "I never look at video, but came into the clubhouse and watched it. The pitch to Thames was a mistake; it came back and got too much of the plate. "But every other hit they got that inning was on a ball. I knew they were going to be aggressive, because that's the way they were [Tuesday night]. I wanted to throw good pitches early in the count and I did that, but they still found holes." The Tigers came out swinging, and connecting. Of the 43 strikes Washburn threw, only two of them were swung on and missed. "I thought Jarrod made some decent pitches, but a couple of balls found holes," McLaren said. "He wanted to stay out there. He said, 'Let me wear it', and I told him he had worn it enough."
Washburn said he was thinking more about helping the team than being concerned about his own numbers.
"I knew the bullpen had a rough night last night, throwing a lot of innings, and I just wanted to throw as many innings as I could to help the team. It wasn't going to get any worse. I already had given up nine runs, so if I give up 20 ... The guys did a good job of coming back a little bit, but for the most part that game is out of hand so we might as well let me wear it."
But McLaren made the pitching change, bringing in lefty Ryan Rowland-Smith, and the Tigers were tamed the rest of the way. Rowland-Smith retired all eight batters he faced and right-hander Cha Seung Baek, who was designated for assignment after the game.
The Mariners have 10 days to trade, release, option or assign Baek outright to the Minors.
They have more time than that to get their rotation back in order, pitching the way it was supposed to coming out of Spring Training.
"Command-wise, I have been that for some of the guys it has not been anywhere near what I thought it would be," Stottlemyre said. "I can't complain about them not doing their work. They are working hard.
"I sit up at night a little bit, thinking about what I can do differently. I still believe in these guys very strongly and the starters just have to go out and do their thing. We're at a point where we can't go another day like this and go to the bullpen this early and have a chance to win the ballgame.
"We need to get a good outing [from Miguel Batista] tomorrow. He needs to give us innings. We're one good start from going on a good streak. I really believe that."
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Jim Street is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.