SEATTLE (AP) - Jack McKeon's second stint as manager of the Florida Marlins, which began June 20, already has set a franchise record.
Not in a good way.
With the club's 5-1 loss to the Seattle Mariners on Friday night, the Marlins have lost 21 games in June, the most for any month in franchise history. And there are still five games left in the sixth month of the year.
There is even more frustration since the Marlins can't even play home games at home. This three-game series was relocated to Seattle due to a conflict at Sun Life Stadium because of a U2 concert.
McKeon had little to do with the monthly record for losses but it's also an indication how difficult it's going to be for the 80-year-old interim skipper to turn around the moribund team.
``There is a big difference between April and May,' McKeon said. ``The pitchers start to get sharp around June and it quiets quite a few hitters.'
It doesn't help that the Marlins faced last year's AL Cy Young winner Felix Hernandez, who allowed two hits over eight innings, striking out 10 and walking two.
``You know you have to be sharp with that guy on the mound over there,' Marlins starter Ricky Nolasco (4-4) said. ``It's the way it's going for, not just me, but the team. Some of those hits (for Seattle), it's just the way it's going. They found holes. It's frustrating but there's not much you can do.'
It was the first time since the inception of the designated hitter in 1973 that National League rules were used in an American League ballpark. Each starting pitcher batted for the first time in Safeco Field history. The Mariners, wearing their road grays, started the game at the plate.
Hernandez (8-6) got a single in the third, the first hit by a pitcher in the 12-year history of Safeco Field. The only previous time a pitcher batted at Safeco was July 31, 2000. Boston, giving up the DH position, used pitcher Hipolito Pichardo as a batter in the ninth inning. He struck out.
The Mariners, down 1-0 in the seventh, began chipping away at Nolasco. He started it with a four-pitch walk to Brendan Ryan. Adam Kennedy followed with a single that just escaped the infield into shallow center field. Ryan alertly raced around second and reached third without a throw.
Justin Smoak then hit a two-hopper to first baseman Gaby Sanchez who threw home to catch Ryan in a rundown. Ryan dodged the tag long enough to allow the runners to move to second and third. Dustin Ackley was intentionally walked. Miguel Olivo followed with a shot to third baseman Greg Dobbs who knocked it down and got up to tag third but Kennedy scored to tie it at 1-all.
That ended the Mariners' 20-inning scoreless streak. They were coming off a three-game sweep by the Washington Nationals in which they scored one run in the previous two games.
Mariners manager Eric Wedge said that rundown ``was the difference in the game. Granted, we had to come through after that. And we did.'
Carlos Peguero loaded the bases again by beating out a single to deep short. Shortstop Hanley Ramirez's effort to keep the ball in the infield saved a run. It didn't matter when Franklin Gutierrez, hitting just .196, followed with a two-run single to center.
Olivo added a two-run home run, his 13th, in the ninth.
``You can't very well win too many game with two hits,' McKeon said. ``Like we had more hit batsman than we had hits.'
Hernandez tied the club record for three hit batsman.
``My changeup was up in the zone,' Hernandez said. ``After that (second) I try to make adjustments and I was good after the third inning.'
Catcher Olivo said, ``I never see his changeup move that much. Swing, swing. Amazing. Even me, I couldn't catch the ball.'
A dropped third strike on a changeup was how the Marlins scored their run in the fourth.
Ramirez singled to open the inning, the first hit Hernandez allowed. He advanced to second on Dobbs' groundout and stole third as Mike Stanton struck out. He struck out four times.
Hernandez then struck out John Buck on a change in the dirt. Olivo couldn't contain it and the ball rolled several feet away, ruled a wild pitch. Buck sprinted to first as Ramirez raced home. Olivo's throw to first was late and Ramirez scored.
Olivo said once he brought his pitches under control, ``he was just a different guy. Everything worked, change, slider, curve sinker. Unbelievable.'
Sanchez, who got one of the two hits, said Hernandez ``is probably the best pitcher I've ever faced, stuff and command-wise. Everything is hard. When you talk about 94, 95 with the ball moving as much as his ball does, it's really good. His changeup is 89, 90, dropping out.'
Nolasco went seven innings, allowing three runs and four hits. He walked two and struck out four. The Marlins have lost all of his last six starts and nine of his last 10.
``I told myself I can't give up a run if I want to win,' Nolasco said. ``Obviously, that's not the way it went. I thought I made the pitches I needed to but couldn't catch a break when I needed to.'
Notes: Seattle's Ichiro Suzuki had his season-long 11-game hitting streak end. ... McKeon said he hesitated ``about 20 seconds' when he was asked to consider replacing Edwin Rodriguez, who resigned Sunday. After his previous stint as the Florida manager (2003-05) the 80-year-old McKeon said it was nice to live a laid-back life, ``then you get bored. At the first opportunity you want to get back. I didn't know if I ever would.' ... Wedge is disappointed in his team's inconsistent play. The club took two of three from the Phillies then were swept by Washington. ``That's too much up and down around here,' he said. ``That's not the way champions live.'
The Associated Press News Service
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