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Bryan Woo, misguided Mariners walloped by Twins

On a night when the Mariners needed their young starting pitcher to give them at least five innings to help a short-handed bullpen, he couldn’t do it, despite his best efforts.   

In a game in which the offense needed to provide some run support for the rookie starter, who hadn’t pitched in nine days, the Mariners ran themselves out of a seminal first inning, foolishly making the final two outs at home plate following base hits.

With a margin for success that requires near-perfect execution, the Mariners made multiple mistakes in the field and couldn’t finish other plays, leading to free outs, extra bases and additional opportunities that the Minnesota Twins happily capitalized on.

And so the Mariners’ season of “we believe we are better than we are playing” continued with its familiar refrain in a dismal 10-3 loss to the Twins on Tuesday. 

“We find a way to play some strange games the last few nights,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said.

Strange is a word fans might eschew in favor of others. But it’s an understandable characterization of the first two games in the four-game series.

“Hopefully we’ll get a good start from Luis Castillo tomorrow and we get after it and win the ballgame tomorrow,” Servais said. “The goal is still to win the series and we still have a chance to do that.”

It’s impossible to figure out this team. And nobody who wears a uniform or sits in the front office can offer any more clarity or certainty as to why it has been so maddeningly inconsistent in its production and results. It’s why Seattle has hovered around the .500 mark, never good enough to get well beyond it and not bad enough to drop too far below it.

This current homestand, the longest of the season, has offered prime examples. The Mariners started with two losses to the lowly Tigers, bounced back with a shutout victory to avoid a sweep, beat Twins All-Star Sonny Gray to open the series and then dropped this mess of performance in front of a larger-than-normal Tuesday night crowd of 28,141, most of whom came for a Ty France bobblehead, berets and baguettes for the “South of France” game promotion.

Instead, they got a baseball version of Les Miserables.

Rookie Bryan Woo suffered through his worst start since his MLB debut, failing to make it out of the fourth inning. And under normal circumstances, meaning with a rested bullpen, he would’ve been pulled earlier in the inning or not even allowed to start it.

Having already allowed two runs in the first inning and three more in the third, Woo gave up a solo homer to Edouard Julien with one out in the fourth that made it 6-3. It only got worse. Jarred Kelenic couldn’t complete a leaping grab on Alex Kirilloff’s deep drive to left-center, which turned into a triple. Max Kepler followed with a double into the corner that made it 7-3, ending Woo’s outing.

“Bryan’s been really good for us,” Servais said. “But tonight was just a struggle right from the get-go command-wise.”

His final line: 3 1/3 innings, seven runs (six earned), eight hits, three walks, four strikeouts, two homers allowed and a wild pitch.

“The main problem all night was just falling behind and not putting myself in good-enough counts to be able to have consistent success,” Woo said. “I was just kind of nitpicking around the zone early on, and then when you fall behind, it’s just really hard to have consistent success.”

After lasting two innings and allowing six runs on seven hits in his MLB debut on June 3 at Texas, Woo pitched into the fifth inning in his next six starts, posting a 4-2 record with a 2.20 earned-run average. In 32 2/3 innings, he struck out 39 and walked just eight.

But with the Mariners wanting to control his overall innings usage and keep him healthy, they waited to start him coming out of the break. He looked a little out of sync in the first inning. He gave up a bloop single to Carlos Correa on his first pitch, issued a one-out walk to Kirilloff and uncorked a wild pitch to move the runners into scoring position to set up a sacrifice fly for Kepler.

The inning continued when Woo hit Matt Wallner with a 1-2 fastball and gave up an RBI single to Willi Castro on a 0-2 fastball. He ended the first inning on his 30th pitch, striking out Kyle Farmer looking.

It was a less-than-ideal start to an outing in which he knew he needed to give the team five innings.

The Mariners’ offense provided its only presence in the bottom of the inning, answering the Twins’ runs against Minnesota’s Bunyan-sized starter, Bailey Ober, who is listed at 6 feet, 9 inches and 260 pounds.

After J.P. Crawford led off with a single, Eugenio Suarez, who was batting in the No. 2 spot with Julio Rodriguez out of the starting lineup, celebrated his 32nd birthday by clubbing a two-run homer to deep right-center that tied the game.

The Mariners seemed poised to add more. Kelenic followed with a single and Teoscar Hernandez later singled up the middle to put runners on first and second with one out.

France, who was hitless in his previous 23 at-bats, yanked a double into the corner. Kelenic scored with ease while Hernandez ran through the stop sign from third-base coach Manny Acta and was thrown out at the plate on a solid relay throw from Correa. The play was close, but the second out of the inning was made at home.

“Teo was thinking about scoring, and from my vantage point, he had his head down and didn’t see Manny put up the stop sign till late and he ran through it,” Servais said. “Correa has probably one of the strongest shortstop arms in the league and he’s really good on relay throws. We know all that. Manny knows all that. But he ran through it.”

The third out wasn’t as close. Mike Ford laced a single to right field and Acta opted to be aggressive and test the arm of right fielder Kepler. France, who will not be confused with the fastest player in baseball, was out by about five steps from home as the throw beat him by so much that he didn’t even attempt to slide.

“You want to make them make a play and they made a play,” Servais said. “He made really good throw.”

The Mariners got three runs, but it could’ve been so much more. They had six hits from seven batters in the inning.

“Making outs at home plate, it hurts right there,” Servais said. “We had a lot of things going our way. We were on all of his pitches and we had him in a very vulnerable spot. Making outs on the bases is huge. It just gets him off the hook.”

Given a 3-2 lead, Woo seemed to find a little command, working a quick 1-2-3 second inning on 11 pitches.

But his outing started falling apart in the third. He gave up leadoff single to Julien, and Kirilloff crushed a homer to left-center to make it 4-3. A throwing error by catcher Cal Raleigh allowed another run to score in the inning.

Meanwhile, the Mariners never really threatened again, tallying three hits over the next eight innings and getting just two runners in scoring position.

The Twins tacked on three more runs off the handful of Mariners relievers available, including a pair of homers off Ty Adcock in the ninth.


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