Seattle bullpen melts down in 8-3 loss to Tigers

Published April 19, 2011

| Associated Press

At some point, Jason Vargas won't see a meltdown by his bullpen or a defensive mistake cost him a chance to finally end that frustrating winless streak.

It wasn't going to happen Monday night, not with Milton Bradley's outfield misplay, or the seventh-inning blowup by relievers Josh Lueke and Chris Ray that followed.

Vargas battled through six innings, giving up just two runs, but Detroit's six-run seventh against Lueke and Ray rallied the Tigers for an 8-3 win over the Mariners.

Whether it's a lack of run support, problems in the field or issues in the bullpen, Vargas isn't knocking his teammates.

"It is something that is out of our control. For us to sit here and try to understand what the hitters are going through is just not possible," Vargas said. "For me to go out there and do my job is all I'm focused on."

Vargas still has not won since Aug. 14, 2010, a stretch of 12 starts. In three of his four starts this season, he has left either tied or with the lead after pitching at least six innings.

"Vargas was really good again. He really had to bear down there that last inning. He didn't give in to them and got through it," Seattle manager Eric Wedge said. "Again, he gave us every opportunity and that's what we are looking for."

Vargas took a 2-1 lead into the sixth thanks to Bradley's two-run homer off Detroit starter Max Scherzer in the third. But it was Bradley's foul-up that led to the tying run. Brennan Boesch doubled into the left-field corner with two outs as Vargas' pitch count rose. Instead of trying to field the rolling ball with his glove, Bradley attempted a barehand grab. The ball bounced free and Miguel Cabrera was able to score the tying run from first.

That was only a precursor to the seventh and the problems for Lueke and Ray.

Brandon Inge led off the seventh with a single to left, went to second on a sacrifice bunt and moved to third on Ryan Raburn's single. Lueke (1-1) then dumped a slider in the dirt that catcher Miguel Olivo couldn't keep from going to the backstop, allowing Inge to score.

Cabrera singled on a 3-0 pitch for a two-run lead, then Ray took over and fared no better. He walked Casper Wells and saw pinch-runner Ramon Santiago score on yet another wild pitch that Olivo couldn't backhand. After Boesch was intentionally walked to load the bases, Jhonny Peralta cracked a three-run triple to center field that Ryan Langerhans couldn't track down.

The inning finally ended when Ray struck out Alex Avila and got a popout from Inge.

Lueke and Ray combined to throw 44 pitches in the seventh, tossing just 16 strikes, allowing four hits, three walks and two wild pitches.

"That seventh inning got ugly there," Wedge said. "Lueke and Ray just didn't have it today. They got behind and then came in and that is where it got away from us."

Aside from Bradley's early homer, the Mariners got a solo shot from Justin Smoak in the eighth as the young first baseman continues to hit well early in the season. But Seattle also flubbed a chance to give Vargas more of a cushion in the fifth.

Scherzer (3-0) somehow escaped after issuing consecutive walks to Chone Figgins and Bradley on eight pitches to start the inning. Jack Cust struck out looking and, with Smoak at the plate, Figgins was thrown out trying to steal third with a great tag applied by Inge. Smoak then completed the frustration by fouling out behind home plate to end the threat.

Seattle is hitting .192 with runners in scoring position, worst in the AL.

NOTES: Raburn hit a foul ball in the first inning that glanced off a large beam holding up the Safeco Field roof above the third-base dugout. It's the first ball in the almost 12-year history of the stadium to hit any part of the retractable roof. ... Olivo got his first hit at Safeco Field this season in the sixth inning, snapping an 0-for-18 skid. ... Smoak's homer extended his hitting streak to seven games.