On the road again, M's again find a wasteland

When they left friendly Safeco Field, the Mariners sported a winning record. A lost weekend in Chicago has changed that.
When they left friendly Safeco Field, the Mariners sported a winning record. A lost weekend in Chicago has changed that.

Optimists would say it's a great thing that attendance has been so low at Safeco Field this year. It means fans typically will have no problems getting good seats — maybe even their own good rows or sections — if they go to the local ball yard, the bonus being that it's beginning to look as though the 'Co is the only safe place for the M's to win.

They left town to start a Friday (April 23) pair of series with American League Central clubs that were sporting a combined win-loss record of 11-20. The M's were 9-7.

Now, after dropping three games that many would've deemed eminently winnable in Chicago, Seattle's stalwarts stumble into Kansas City a game below .500. Yes, they send Felix Hernandez to the mound Monday (April 26) against the Royals. Yes (we're still trying to put the optimistic spin on this), having Felix pitching means absolutely nothing when it comes to Mariner run production.

Long-time followers of the Seattle franchise would be hard-pressed to remember a more frustrating series than the slog in Chicag'. The White Sox scored in what would prove to be their last at-bats in each of the three games, winning twice on "walk-off" home runs and the final time by scoring the prohibitive run during the eighth inning.

By far the worst for M's fans (and, indeed, for players and coaches) was the middle game. Doug Fister, the terrific right-hand surprise guy of the young season, was magnificent through eight innings, giving up a pair of earned runs on two hits and keeping his E.R.A. at a scant 1.67, lowest among M's starters. The offense had coaxed a couple of ninth-inning runs to leave things at 4-2 for David Aardsma.

The closer apparently throws just one pitch: a 97-mile-per-hour fastball. Unfortunately, he throws in places too high and low for batters to go for it, resulting, on this occasion, in his issuing a walk with two outs to the Sox' weakest hitter. He also throws where opportunists such as Paul Konerko and Alex Rios can connect with the fat half of the bat, ergo Chicago 5, Seattle 4.

No manager living or dead would doubt the decision to bring in Aardsma to finish a game Fister had commanded. Few who follow the fortunes of the M's would have wagered a stale garlic fry that Aardsma, especially with one out, would blow a two-run lead and single-handedly lose the game.

Yeah, but this is the road for you. The way the Seattle club has been playing away games (2-8), it's beginning to look as though the M's 2010 season may make Cormac McCarthy's version of The Road seem like easy street by comparison.


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