CLOSE

Now Commenting On:

Mariners unable to pick up Woods

Mariners unable to pick up Woods

SEATTLE -- While it's entirely too soon to know if Jake Woods will get a final callback on his audition for the 2007 rotation, there's no denying time no longer falls on his side.

Three starts in three weeks is all that's likely left of the season for the left-hander, who is no doubt hoping for a better finish than the one he found Monday at Safeco Field in a 6-2 loss to the Blue Jays.

To ensure himself of a better finish, Woods knows he needs to work on his, well, starts.

For the second consecutive start, Woods was victimized by first-inning runs and was never able to recover as Seattle fell to Toronto before a crowd of 24,462.

Much like his last start in Detroit, where he allowed three first-inning runs, Woods (4-3) was unable to get out of the opening frame without minimizing the damage by the Jays.

"I have talked to Chavy [pitching coach Rafael Chaves] about it, I have talked to [Jarrod] Washburn about it," Woods said. "I have got to find a way to get out through that first inning without throwing so many pitches."

That didn't happen Monday, as Woods struggled with command of his pitches early on.

The game certainly started ominously enough when Woods walked leadoff hitter Reed Johnson, who then moved to second base on Frank Catalanotto's sacrifice bunt.

Johnson scored on Vernon Wells' RBI single to left field. Wells later scored on an RBI single by Bengie Molina.

So before the Mariners even had the chance to hit, they were already in a two-run hole.

"It's something I've got to find so I'm not giving up runs in the first inning," Woods said. "It's frustrating. It's been tough."

Woods has lost twice in his last three starts, allowing a combined 12 runs in that span. That comes after allowing just one run over his first two starts since moving into the rotation last month for Joel Pineiro.

This certainly isn't the path Woods wanted to follow during his audition that, really, no one is willing to refer to it as such.

But with Pineiro eligible for salary arbitration and Gil Meche eligible for free agency, the Mariners are taking a hard look at Woods and right-hander Cha Seung Baek as potential candidates for the rotation next year.

Baek has done his part, going 3-0 with a 2.22 ERA in three starts. Woods saw his ERA creep back up to 4.28, though he's generally pitched better as a starter.

And while Woods allowed eight hits for the second time in his last three starts, he didn't feel like the Blue Jays especially victimized him by hitting rockets into every nook and cranny of Safeco Field.

If anything, many of the Blue Jays' hits were bleeders that weren't anywhere near being squared-up.

"There were some bleeders that fell in," said Woods, who refused to pin his woes on well-placed or, in his case, not-so-well-placed balls. "But that's baseball."

Unlike his start in Detroit, where Woods didn't allow another run after that three-run first inning, he couldn't minimize the damage to one inning Monday, as the Blue Jays added three more runs in the fourth inning.

In the fourth, Johnson and Adam Lind had RBI singles. John McDonald, who earlier in the at-bat was unable to get down a squeeze bunt, finally managed to do so as Toronto took a 5-0 lead.

That was plenty of support for Blue Jays starter Ted Lilly (13-12), who came into the game with a reputation for having a wild streak. But all Lilly did was throw his share of strikes, going seven innings with two runs allowed and two walks.

"We couldn't get anything going off of Lilly until late," Seattle manager Mike Hargrove said. "That was kind of the name of the game. It seemed like Lilly made pitches when he needed to. We were trying to be patient and he was throwing strikes."

The Mariners finally scored two runs in the fifth inning off Lilly when the left-hander uncorked a wild pitch that scored Richie Sexson, who walked to start the inning.

Seattle then cut the lead to 5-2 when Kenji Johjima raced home on Jose Lopez's groundout to second base.

But the Mariners managed just five hits -- only one over the final four innings -- as they couldn't solve Lilly.

"He established his fastball and pitched well off it," Mariners designated hitter Eduardo Perez said. "I've faced him before and he's always been tough on me. My first three at-bats, I don't think I saw one ball."

Corey Brock is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

{}
{}