Pity the poor Detroit Tigers, good as they are. Last month the club paid a great percentage of its future to acquire the best left-handed pitcher the Seattle Mariners could offer. Then, during the M'ês 7-6 loss Thursday (Aug. 20), the Bengals made the painful discovery that they may only have gotten Seattle'ês second-best lefty.
The game was a dubious duel between the departed Mariner Jarrod Washburn and the left-behind, mended-from-injury Ryan Rowland-Smith. During the game'ês early innings both appeared to be auditioning to pitch lob balls in next season'ês all-star-week home-run derby. Washburn yielded long balls to recent teammates Jose Lopez and Kenji Johjima; Rowland-Smith then gave up a pair of solo shots, leaving the score at 4-2 through four innings.
If Seattle'ês bespectacled Aussie was rocky in the fourth frame, he was walky in the fifth. But a pair of bases on balls resulted in no scoring and Washburn gave up two more solo shots in the top of the sixth. Mike Sweeney'ês floater barely cleared the left-field fence; Russell Branyan'ês blast (his 28th of the season) was a neck-jerker deep beyond the right-field wall: M'ês 6-2.
Washburn was supposed to be the southpaw insurance policy Detroit would need to fend off Central Division competitor Chicago. The likeable lefty was the American League Pitcher of the Month for July but he'ês been less than commanding for his new club during August.
Both throwers got yeoman help from their fielders. Tiger third-baseman Brandon Inge went into the stands twice to snag foul balls for outs. Substitute M'ês shortstop Josh Wilson seemed to defy the laws of physics by making an improbable (some would say impossible) mid-pirouette peg for an out to first (he'êd later make what at the time was a game-saving, backward catch running into left field).
The Mariners pulled their lefty after he loaded the bases with none out in the sixth. The starter would get debited for five earned runs but Washburn would get nicked for six.
Time would seem to be running out on the 62-59 M'ês quest for a wild-card playoff spot. Even given a schedule starting Friday (Aug. 21) featuring three each with a trio of the league'ês worst teams, Seattle is at a big disadvantage on the eve of the season'ês final month. Injuries have been persistent. Third-baseman Adrian Beltre no sooner came back earlier than expected from shoulder surgery when he took a one-hop shot to the groin instead of the glove. Jack Wilson arrived from Pittsburgh as the savior shortstop &mdsh; then pulled a hamstring.
Then there'ês that lefty who was supposed to be better than Washburn and Rowland-Smith. Erik Bedard'ês injury-driven ongoing absence from the pitching staff continues to make his name the first thing you hear when somebody starts in about 'êthe worst trade the Seattle Mariners ever made.'ê