Mariners' slow start is costly against Tigers

Mariners' slow start is costly against Tigers

Mariners' slow start is costly against Tigers
SEATTLE -- It's tough to beat Tigers ace Justin Verlander under normal circumstances, but the Mariners didn't help themselves any in spotting Detroit a big early lead en route to a 6-4 loss on Tuesday at Safeco Field.

Seattle starter Kevin Millwood gave up five runs on seven hits in the first two innings, which was more than the Mariners could overcome against the 2011 American League MVP and Cy Young Award winner.

The Mariners attempted to rally for a second straight night in the ninth, with Tigers closer Jose Valverde walking Mike Carp, Michael Saunders and Ichiro Suzuki before getting out of the bases-loaded jam as Detroit right fielder Don Kelly went into the stands to catch a foul ball down the line by rookie Jesus Montero.

"It was a heck of a ballgame," said Seattle manager Eric Wedge. "Our guys battled their tails off. I mean, when you're down early like that against one of the better pitchers in the league, our guys didn't give in at all. I'm really pleased with the way they battled through at-bats, made their guy work and got themselves back in the ballgame."

In the end, leadoff hitter Dustin Ackley was kicking himself for failing to get a bunt down in the ninth with Carp and Saunders at first and second and no outs. Ackley wound up striking out, Brendan Ryan hit into a fielder's choice and then Kelly ended the drama by snagging Montero's flare as he tumbled over the rail.

"It's definitely frustrating to not get that bunt down, because that was a momentum killer," said Ackley.

Wedge said the decision to have Ackley bunt was to give his team a chance to tie the game with a single, but after rallying for three runs in the ninth in a 3-2 win on Monday, the magic ran out.

"Our guys gave us every opportunity to win that ballgame," he said. "We were just one hit short there."

The loss snapped a three-game win streak for Seattle, which sits 14-18 heading into Wednesday's series finale. The Mariners had won four straight this year against the Tigers (15-14) and had beaten Verlander in his last three starts at Safeco Field.

Millwood eventually settled in and got the Mariners through five innings with a 5-3 deficit, but wound up with the loss and is now 0-4 in six starts with a 5.88 ERA.

The 37-year-old veteran did some serious damage control in the first, when he allowed just one run despite giving up three hits and two walks. But the Tigers jumped on him for four more runs in the second, courtesy of two-run doubles by Andy Dirks and Delmon Young.

"It's not an easy game, don't get me wrong, but it's also not as hard as I'm making it look that one inning," Millwood said. "The fact of the matter is, you make good pitches, you get people out. That's pretty much it."

After getting just three innings out of starter Blake Beavan on Monday following a line drive to his elbow, the Mariners needed some innings from Millwood, and he dug in and managed five despite surrendering eight hits and five walks in a 98-pitch struggle.

Millwood twice left the bases loaded, in the first and fifth, before giving way to the bullpen.

Verlander let the Mariners back into the game with three runs in a third inning that saw Tigers manager Jim Leyland got tossed by home-plate umpire Brian Knight.

"The first four innings, for me, were some of the toughest innings that I've had to throw [in recent memory]," Verlander said. "I really struggled commanding my fastball."

The Mariners got four hits in the third, including an RBI single from Ichiro and a two-run base hit by Kyle Seager before Leyland was ejected, apparently upset at a checked-swing call during a John Jaso at-bat.

But Verlander, fighting his own mounting pitch count, got through six innings with just the three runs on seven hits and a pair of walks as he improved to 3-1 with a 2.63 ERA.

"For whatever reason, it's been pretty tough for me here the last few years," he said. "These guys battled me pretty good. They've got a lot of young talented players, and you can't ever take that for granted. I was glad that I was able to hold the damage to that one inning and give us a chance to win."

The Tigers opened the lead to 6-3 with Prince Fielder's fifth home run of the season, a blast to right field leading off the seventh against Shawn Kelley. Ryan narrowed that back to 6-4 with an RBI single off Phil Coke in the bottom of the seventh in a 2-for-4 night.

Seager also was 2-for-4 with a double and two RBIs, his average now at .297 with a team-high 19 RBIs.

Ichiro went 1-for-4 and moved into 100th place on the Major League's all-time hit list, tied with Harry Hooper at 2,466.

Greg Johns is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB as well as his Mariners Musings blog. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.