Mariners Rally Comes Up Short, Lose to Rays 3-2

SportsBaseballHuman InterestSeattle MarinersTampa Bay RaysAdam KennedyJeremy Hellickson

It's too early to make any bold proclamations about what has been a surprising season for the Mariners, but one quality has become increasingly present: They fight to the end in every game.

Take Saturday's 3-2 loss to Tampa Bay before a sun-splashed crowd of 28,843 in Safeco Field. Through the first seven innings, the way they were being carved up by rookie right-hander Jeremy Hellickson, a casual observer might figure that they'd go quietly, in full cap-tipping mode, and get ready for the nighttime U2 concert across the street at Qwest Field.

Not these Mariners. While they still haven't found what they're looking for in terms of first place in the American League West, they're still two games above .500 after Saturday's loss, and even when they do succumb to good pitching, they make it interesting.

Catcher Miguel Olivo did that in the eighth inning, entering the game as a pinch-hitter with the Mariners trailing, 3-0, and promptly hammering a Joel Peralta pitch over the scoreboard in left field for a two-run home run that cut the lead to one and gave the Safeco faithful a temporary jolt. They couldn't get any closer, going down in order against Rays closer Kyle Farnsworth in the ninth, but their resiliency continued.

"These guys, they show up and they're going to take it all the way to the end," Seattle manager Eric Wedge said. "And it's a credit to their attitude and their approach to each day, each game and each inning.

"Miggy really came up big for us there, and you bring it to a one-run ballgame and anything can happen in the ninth inning."

None of it would have been possible without the determined and quality effort the Mariners got from their righty, Doug Fister, who went seven innings and only suffered one rough spell against an American League contender.

Fister surrendered all three runs in the second inning, but none of the balls were particularly hard-hit. Fister walked B.J. Upton to lead off, and even though the Mariners caught Upton trying to take third on a bloop single by Sam Fuld, another walk, this time to John Jaso, set up the Rays for a two-out rally. Johnny Damon dumped a Texas leaguer into shallow center for an unlikely RBI double, and Ben Zobrist followed with a two-run single that ended up being all the Rays would need.

"Zobrist's two-out base hit for us was a big play," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "That's huge. ... We didn't crush it, but we found some holes."

Fister fell to 3-6 for the season, even though he lowered his ERA to 3.29, and he pitched at least seven innings in back-to-back games for the second time this season. His lack of run support over the last two years have him seemingly conditioned to reflecting on losses like these in a philosophical manner.

When asked if he was frustrated by the seeing-eye variety of hits that spelled his doom on Saturday, Fister shrugged.

"Sure, but then again, that's the game of baseball," Fister said. "You don't always have to hit it hard. You don't always have to hit it over the fence. It just has to find a hole and go in the right spot.

"I felt like from the first pitch to the last pitch, I was trying to locate, and I fell short in the one inning, and that's the way the ball rolls."

Meanwhile, the balls hit by the Mariners were rolling right at Rays defenders all game while Hellickson was on the mound. Facing the 24-year-old for the first time, the Mariners learned quickly why he was named the AL Pitcher and Rookie of the Month for May.

Seattle didn't get a hit until a second-inning pop fly off the bat of Carlos Peguero appeared to be lost in the sun by Rays left fielder Fuld and bounded off his leg onto the outfield turf. That was a single to give the Mariners a runner on third base, but Chone Figgins struck out to end the threat.

In the fourth, after Mariners first baseman Justin Smoak led off with a double into the left-field corner and took third on a flyout to center by Jack Cust, Smoak was tagged out at the plate when trying to score on an Adam Kennedy fly to right.

Hellickson set down 12 batters in a row following the Smoak double, exiting after Peguero doubled with one out in the eighth.

"[He's got a] live fastball, and his fastball is what makes his other pitches good," Mariners second baseman Adam Kennedy said. "It comes out of his hand well and he's in the strike zone on both sides of the plate. He's a good pitcher."

Meanwhile, Fister didn't give in. After the second inning, he was at his best, too.

Fister breezed through perfect frames in the third, fourth and fifth, striking out the side in the latter using a fastball that topped out at 93 mph, his best radar-gun reading of the year. Fister fanned six overall and is averaging 6.35 strikeouts per nine innings this year, up from 4.89 in 2010.

"Doug struggled one inning early on, but he was able to fight through it," Wedge said. "I couldn't be more impressed with what he did after that. For him to be out of sync the way he was in that one inning, and to find it and get it back and get us deep in the ballgame, great effort. Great effort.

"It's one thing if you're locked in, but when you're a little out of sync and you're able to gather yourself, not just mechanically but mentally, too, and then go out there and push forward, that's what he did. It kept us in the ballgame."

And that seems to be the M.O. with the Mariners these days. They might not always do it in pretty fashion, but more often than not they seem to keep themselves in the game.

It's a trait that winners are made of, and it's a trait Fister, for one, loves to see.

"This team never gives up, never loses any fight," Fister said. "We're in it from the first pitch to the last pitch. Unfortunately, we came up short, but guys still have fight, still have the fire that we're going to come back tomorrow and win the series."



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