Seattle — Some losses are best filed under “how in the heck?”
As would be Saturday night’s 3-2 loss to the Seattle Mariners — a reminder that the game is not always won by he who hits the ball the hardest.
Or by they who do.
With Safeco Field behaving like the original Comerica Park — remember it before the distances were shortened? — but also, and more importantly, with the Mariners also making the plays in the outfield they needed to make, the combination was enough to beat the Tigers
Either Safeco or a mild night especially took a toll on Ian Kinsler’s long drive to left that ended the seventh with two runners on.
Looking like it had a chance to reach the seats, Kinsler’s bid fell short. It was caught by Cole Gillespie at the wall in left for the final out of the inning.
“That’s probably the big play,” manager Brad Ausmus said. “The ball doesn’t carry well to left here, but another three feet and it’s probably over his glove.”
“I thought I hit it well enough,” Kinsler said.
Asked if a temperature that dropped only five degrees from a game-time 71 had anything to do with, Kinsler said he didn’t know — and couldn’t really be expected to know.
“Gotta ask the scientists on that one,” he said.
With a chance at the dramatic, Kinsler made the game’s final out on a grounder to short after the Tigers had put their first two batters on in the ninth against former Tiger Fernando Rodney.
For throwing 105 pitches in four innings, and for allowing the three Seattle runs, Drew Smyly (2-4) took the loss. He’s 0-3 in his last six starts — and still searching for the effectiveness both he and the Tigers expect.
“He had a little trouble with his command again,” Ausmus said. “But I don’t think it’s anything mechanical. I think it’s something he can fix.”
Smyly simply didn’t get it done.
The Tigers trailed 3-1 when he departed. There was no run explosion against him, but neither did he pitch well.
In the four innings he lasted, Smyly allowed three runs on seven hits and — for all the pitches he threw — just one walk.
Of his 105 pitches, 41 were balls. But the only walk he allowed was a harmless one with two outs in the first.
Smyly went to so many three-ball counts (eight) in addition to his walk, though, that his pitch count just kept climbing.
“I obviously wasn’t efficient,” he said. “Way too many pitches per batter.”
The Mariners didn’t have the offense to take full advantage, though. They singled their way to a couple of second-inning runs and added another in the fourth because Willie Bloomquist, who has always hit the Tigers, had his second RBI single of the game.
But the only thunder getting a reaction from the crowd at Safeco came in the form of cheers for the NBA playoffs ouster of the old Seattle SuperSonics franchise — now the Oklahoma City Thunder.
So without the firepower to pull substantially ahead, the Mariners could only hope that Chris Young and the bullpen would hold the Tigers at bay.
Miguel Cabrera’s home run put the Tigers on the board in the fourth — and there was another promising moment when Kinsler came up with two on and two outs in the fifth.
Because it was Rajai Davis on first, a double would have tied it, but Kinsler, with a drive down the line to left, nearly did more than tie it.
At the plate, Kinsler did the traditional hooking foul ball dance, twisting every which way, but could not keep the ball fair.
“He needed more body language than that to get that one fair,” Ausmus said.
Soon after, Kinsler flied out to left to end the inning.
The Tigers kept breathing down the Mariners’ necks, though — which in itself was easy since the M’s had shut down offensively.
Austin Jackson led off the seventh with a double, which knocked big Young, the 6-foot-10 starter, out of the game.
Alex Avila’s grounder to second moved Jackson to third, and he scored on Dominic Leone’s wild full-count pitch to Nick Castellanos.
After an infield single by Davis, Kinsler had another shot at a big hit, but that’s when his long drive to left got caught.
“He makes a pitcher earn the out,” Ausmus said of Kinsler, “but it just wasn’t to be tonight.”