SEATTLE -- Ian Snell pitched well enough to win despite flu-like symptoms on Tuesday against the White Sox, likely even well enough to lay claim to his best start in a Mariners uniform since coming over in a July 29 trade from the Pittsburgh Pirates. But the Mariners could never bust through with an insurance run after taking an early lead, and their bullpen squandered a one-run lead in the seventh that allowed Chicago to take the first game of a three-game series, 6-3, before 17,153 at Safeco Field. Seattle got on the board in the second with a home run by Ken Griffey Jr. -- his 626th career dinger, which also added White Sox starter Freddy Garcia to a list now 404 names long of pitchers Griffey has homered against -- then an RBI single by Mike Carp. And the Mariners added another run in the third when Jose Lopez chipped in with an RBI groundout.
They also stranded runners in scoring position in the fourth, sixth and seventh innings, though, offering little more support to Snell in his bid for his fifth win in his last six starts. So when the White Sox took the lead in the seventh on a two-out single by A.J. Pierzynski that scored runners from second and third base, all those missed chances became a lot more frustrating. "Offensively, I thought we swung the bats OK," manager Don Wakamatsu said. "Ten hits, but the key is leaving nine guys on base. Again, it's a 3-2 ballgame. The three runs in the seventh hurt us." What also hurt was stranding two of those runners in scoring position in the bottom of the seventh, after the White Sox had added three runs to take a 5-3 lead. Jack Wilson reached on a bunt single to lead off the inning, then Ichiro Suzuki hit a blooper into left field that was misplayed by Carlos Quentin. Franklin Gutierrez followed with a sacrifice bunt to put the tying runner in scoring position. But that was where it stayed. Lopez popped out to first base against reliever Octavio Dotel and Griffey struck out swinging against lefty Matt Thornton to end the inning. It would have been tough for the offense to overcome the bullpen's shaky night, though. After Snell allowed only five hits and two runs in six innings, the bullpen gave up eight hits and three runs in the remaining three frames. The right-hander said he felt bad all day and was close to vomiting on several occasions during the game, and also jammed his wrist after fielding a bunt in the fifth inning. That's why he left after throwing just 84 pitches through six frames, though the wrist issue doesn't look to be serious, both Wakamatsu and Snell said. "To tell you the truth, some of my best games are when I'm sick," Snell said. "It's weird, but it's the truth. I just wanted to go out and continue my progress and show people that I'm making progress. That's basically what I want to do." A win would have been nice, too. Pierzynski's back-breaker in the seventh came in a situation where the Mariners usually would have turned to Sean White, who is sidelined with shoulder soreness. Instead, they went with setup man Mark Lowe, who lost a 10-pitch battle to the White Sox catcher that ended up deciding the game. "I think that was the game right there," White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen said, rather simply.
Wakamatsu lamented that closer David Aardsma hasn't been able to get in the game lately."We have to be able to allow Lowe to pitch the eighth and Aardsma in the ninth," Wakamatsu said. "And it's really trying to find that guy who's going to step up and give us a solid seventh, or be able to get in there." As if losing the game in that manner wasn't frustrating enough, the Mariners also saw two more starters leave the game with injuries. Jack Wilson had to exit the game after stepping awkwardly on first base after beating out his bunt in the seventh, and Bill Hall pulled up lame in the eighth after running out a dropped third strike. Wilson is day-to-day with a bruised heel. Hall should be OK to play on Wednesday, Wakamatsu said. Garcia earned the win against his former team, allowing three runs on seven hits in six innings.
Christian Caple is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.