SEATTLE -- An uncanny run of little support has dogged Mariners left-hander Jarrod Washburn for nearly four years now, and he can't understand it. Washburn has received less run support than any other American League starter since 2005, and it happened again on Saturday night when the Mariners were held scoreless for the six innings he pitched and eventually dropped a 5-1 decision to the Athletics in front of 34,145 at Safeco Field. "I don't get it," he said. "It would make sense if it happened once in a while; for a year, maybe, but it doesn't make any sense that it happens year after year. It takes somebody smarter than me to figure it out. Good thing I'm mentally strong, or I might just quit or something."
That isn't going to happen anytime soon. He still has a year remaining on his contract with Seattle and surely will continue his career beyond the 2009 season. But with a 5-14 record, and the Mariners possibly one day from being mathematically eliminated from the AL West race, being down in the dumps is a way of life for Washburn and the Mariners these days. Any combination of Angels wins and/or Mariners losses totaling two would eliminate Seattle (47-82), making it one of the earliest eliminations in franchise history. Meanwhile, the Mariners have seven games remaining this month, and they are still looking for a win from one of their starting pitchers. Washburn has the distinction of being the last pitcher to win in a starting role, but that was back on July 27 in Toronto. Right-hander Felix Hernandez, the starter in Sunday's series finale against the Athletics, is the last starter to win a game at Safeco Field, beating the Indians on July 18. With some help on Saturday night, Washburn could have ended the famine. But his 13th quality start of the season had a familiar ending -- good but not good enough. The Mariners were held to five hits and one run by Oakland left-hander Dana Eveland over seven innings, getting only one runner into scoring position through the first six frames. That came in the fourth inning, when Raul Ibanez tripled with two outs and was stranded. Seattle was behind, 2-0, at the time, thanks to a two-run home run by Daric Barton in the top of the inning. After surrendering a leadoff single to Frank Thomas, Washburn retired the next two batters but fell behind in the count to Barton 3-and-1. "I didn't want to walk him in that situation," Washburn said, "and he did what he was supposed to." The ball landed into the right-field bleachers. "The mistake I made was falling behind him 3-and-1," Washburn said. Oakland added another run in the fifth inning on a double, sacrifice bunt and single to center by Bobby Crosby, and the Athletics had more than enough runs to notch the victory. Washburn departed after six innings and 105 pitches. "That was the usual Wash," manager Jim Riggleman said. "He wasn't at his best, but that is a testament to his competitiveness. He kept us in there and gave us a chance to win. He seems to do that every time, but unfortunately we haven't been able to score many runs when he's pitching. He really competes. "If you can hold a team down to two or three runs in five or six innings, you have good chance to win ballgames. But it hasn't been happening [with Washburn]." The loss was the 100th of Washburn's Major League career, two more games than he has won during tenures with the Angels from 1998-2005 and Mariners from 2006. He was 75-57 with the Angels and is 23-43 in three seasons with Seattle. "I know I can still pitch good and give my team a chance to win, like I did today," he said. "I am still confident in my abilities. I have no doubts in my ability to give my team a chance to win, but it's not happening. It was another game where one pitch cost us a loss. It [hurts] when that happens, but it seems to be a recurring theme." On a night Washburn reached the 100-loss mark, shortstop Yuniesky Betancourt reached base on a walk for just the 10th and 11th times this season. He coaxed a free pass from Eveland with two outs in the sixth inning and drew a free pass from reliever Huston Street in the eighth. It was just the third time in his career that he walked more than once in the same game without at least one being intentional.
Jim Street is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.