On a day the rest of the country celebrated its independence by blowing up stuff, Bill Bavasi's decision to destroy Seattle's farm system continued to haunt the Mariners.
Traded by the former Mariners GM from Seattle to Baltimore in a now infamous deal for Erik Bedard, Chris Tillman and Adam Jones did their best to remind the Mariners of past transgressions in a 4-2 Baltimore win Wednesday afternoon at Safeco Field.
Making his 2012 MLB debut, Tillman went a career-high 8 1/3 innings, surrendering two runs, both unearned, on a pair of hits while touching 97 mph with a running two-seam fastball late in the game. In two career starts against the Mariners, Tillman is 2-0 with a 1.88 ERA while holding Seattle hitters to a .102 batting average.
"There wasn't really any hard contact," manager Eric Wedge said after his team was held to three hits or less for the sixth time this season. "He threw a good ball game, don't get me wrong. We just didn't put ourselves in a position to hit the ball hard and really didn't get a chance to get anything going. That guy commanded the ball game against us."
Jones, meanwhile, had little trouble squaring up Hector Noesi in the second inning when he blasted a 391-foot-rocket into the upper deck in left field, a solo home run to give the Orioles an early 1-0 advantage.
"It was a fastball he was waiting for," Noesi said in a tense post-game interview when asked about the 2-0 meatball left over the center of the plate.
Noesi went just five innings while surrendering four runs on seven hits to drop to 2-11 with a 5.77 ERA. His current eight-game losing streak stretching over his last eight starts is the longest such run in the major leagues this year.
After yet another erratic performance, Wedge isn't guaranteeing his fifth thrower will be back for his next scheduled start after the All-Star Break. In his partial defense, the Mariners have scored one run in his last five starts.
"What we're looking for from him is to get to the point where we can count him each and every start," Wedge said in his office before finishing the team's longest home stand at 4-6.
"We're in the process of evaluating everything -- I'll tell you that much," he said. "I've been very clear, very patient. I think we've been patient as an organization but there's a time and place to make some changes. As we head into the break here, we're going to evaluate where we are with everybody."
Noesi's problems snowballed in the third when Mark Reynolds and Robert Andino lead off with singles. After Xavier Avery advanced the runners with a sacrifice bunt, J.J. Hardy tacked on to the lead with an RBI groundout. Chris Davis followed with a single into right field to score Andino and give the Orioles a 3-0 lead before Noesi could work out of trouble.
In the fifth, catcher Jesus Montero left the game after taking a foul tip from Andino off his face mask, suffering a mild concussion. Wedge said the training staff will evaluate on Friday.
"We don't think it's going to be anything where we have to put him on the DL," Wedge said. "He was just a little bit off and a little bit dizzy. We didn't feel comfortable pushing him through that."
After producing just one hit in eight innings, the Mariners offense finally mounted a threat in the bottom of the ninth when Michael Saunders reached after second basemen Robert Andino booted a routine ground ball. Casper Wells then struck out for the second time before Jaso ripped a double into the gap in right-center field to finally chase Tillman.
Kyle Seager could muster only a weak RBI-ground out to Andino for the second out. Smoak responded with a line-drive base hit to raise his average to .205, driving in Seattle's second run. However, Olivo flew out just short of the right-field warning track to end the game.
Wedge summarized his team's performance rather succinctly after the Mariners wrapped up the first half of their 2012 home slate with a 16-25 at Safeco Field, worst in MLB.
"Every position player out there has a job to do and they aren't getting it done out there. It's obvious."