Early jitters get to Jakubauskas in loss

Early jitters get to Jakubauskas in loss

SEATTLE -- A nine-week run of solid outing after solid outing ended on Wednesday night for Mariners right-hander Chris Jakubauskas, who returned to Earth on Earth Day.

The 30-year-old rookie surrendered three runs in the first inning, and one in the second, third and fourth frames, putting the Mariners in a bind that turned into a 9-3 loss to the Rays before 16,476 at Safeco Field.

After using excellent pitching and defense to spend most of the first two weeks of the regular season in first place in the AL West, the Mariners succumbed to eight walks, four wild pitches and two errors in the middle game of a three-game series against the reigning American League champs.

"It was very disheartening tonight," Jakubauskas said. "I wanted to give another good performance and it didn't happen. It was one of those days, I guess. You don't like to have them.

"It's not fun out there giving up a lot of hits and putting your team in a hole like that. I tried to keep the bleeding to a minimum but it wasn't there tonight."

It was one of those rare games this season when not much of anything was there for the Mariners, who fell to 9-6 but remained atop the division for the 12th consecutive day.

"Our team revolves around pitching and defense, and tonight we weren't very good at either," manager Don Wakamatsu said. "I thought Jakubauskas came out and was rushing a little bit, getting balls up, and never got a groove.

"It was a lot different than we have seen in the past, all the way back to Spring Training. He has pitched extremely well, but that's one of those things with a young pitcher. Sometimes you see it."

Compounding their woes on this frigid night, the Mariners went into the fifth inning without a hit, or a base runner.

Rays right-hander Jeff Niemann retired the first 12 batters he faced and seemed to have No. 13 in the bag when Adrian Beltre started the fifth inning with a routine grounder to shortstop Jason Bartlett.

But Beltre reached safely when Bartlett's high throw pulled first baseman Carlos Pena off the bag. Seattle had its first runner and Bartlett had his first error of the season.

A four-pitch walk to Ronny Cedeno gave the Mariners another runner and figuring that Niemann wanted to throw a first-pitch strike, second baseman Jose Lopez was ready for it and launched a three-run home run to left-center.

But the Rays were already leading by seven runs, so Lopez's second home run of the season just put a little dent in the deficit which the Mariners faced all night long.

Wakamatsu stuck with Jakubauskas into the fourth inning, hoping not to burn out the bullpen. As it worked out, right-hander Miguel Batista tossed two scoreless innings of relief -- the only Seattle pitcher to keep the Rays away from home plate -- and he's unavailable for Thursday afternoon's series finale.

"It's one of those games we give up three runs quick and we're not swinging the bats real well, so you have to make a decision to try and save the bullpen," Wakamatsu said.

For one of the few times this season, the Mariners were never really in the game and perhaps Jakubauskas was due to have a clunker.

A virtual unknown to most Mariners fans when Spring Training started in mid-February, Jakubauskas excelled from start to finish, earning a spot in the Seattle bullpen with a Cactus League-best 1.99 ERA.

An injury to left-hander Ryan Rowland-Smith six days into the regular season opened the door for Jakubauskas to make his first big league start. He continued his mastery, tossing four scoreless innings against the Angels before surrendering two runs in the fifth inning, and took the loss.

But he pitched well enough in that game to receive a standing ovation from the Safeco Field faithful.

That was not the way things worked out in his second career start.

Jakubauskas needed 36 pitches to get through the first inning. He retired the first batter he faced, but the next five Rays reached base and three of them scored.

It was quick.

Single, single, double, wild pitch, single, walk, wild pitch, popup, walk and fly out.

The pinpoint control he displayed throughout Spring Training, and again in his first three regular season appearances, was off-kilter as only half of his first-inning pitches were strikes.

"It was very frustrating," Jakubauskas said. "I felt good in the bullpen, but I was leaving the ball up in the [strike] zone and you can't do that up here. I was falling behind and the next thing you know, my pitch-count was going through the roof."

He said the best thing is to erase this game as quickly as he can, go back to work with pitching coach Rick Adair and get ready for his next start.

"Tonight was a bad one, but you have to move on," he said.

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