Seattle's 1-0 lead at the end of the first inning Wednesday night against Baltimore might not seem like much to get excited about.
But it was a lot better position than the Mariners have typically been in this year.
Including Wednesday, Seattle has been outscored 32-15 in the first, by far its largest discrepancy in an inning.
The next worst inning for Seattle is the third (outscored 31-20). Next on the list is the ninth (22-16), though that number is hugely slanted by Tuesday's game, when Baltimore scored nine runs.
The bad beginnings started at the beginning, when Vladimir Guerrero hit a two-run homer off Jamie Moyer on opening day.
It has been more of a problem of late. The Mariners had given up at least one first-inning run in six of their past eight games prior to Wednesday, and been behind at the end of the first inning in five of those contests.
Mariners manager Mike Hargrove said he's not sure it all means that much.
"Stats are stats," he said. "Does it mean anything? Yeah, I wish we played better and hit better and pitched better in the first inning."
But pitching coach Rafael Chaves says the first inning numbers can't be ignored, especially since they typically mean that the starting pitchers are getting hit around a bit.
"You can read into it that maybe we need to prepare ourselves differently," Chaves said. "Have a different approach before the game or maybe wait a little longer back in the bullpen before we come out on the field."
Tuesday's deficit was due mostly to some poor early pitching from Joel Pineiro, who allowed four runs on four hits in the first inning.
He ended up getting his third consecutive loss, a streak that began after he had won two in a row to begin the month. Pineiro settled down to allow just one run over the next four innings.
"I was disappointed that he struggled the way he did," Hargrove said. "But I was impressed that he figured out what it was that wasn't working for him and he went away from it and went to his changeup and his slider and his curveball and he competed for five innings. What I tried to tell him is that the good ones are the people who find a way to compete, and he did that."
The struggles of Pineiro, who has allowed 16 earned runs in 14 innings in his past three starts, are somewhat puzzling, Chaves said.
"I don't think there's anything mechanically that he's doing different than he was before," Chaves said. "It's just a matter of executing his pitches better."
Hargrove said Pineiro "just didn't have good command of his fastball."
Halama walking tall
Former Mariners pitcher John Halama said he was "very sore" a night after throwing 67 pitches in his first start of the season. He hadn't thrown more than 52 in any game previously.
He got the call after scheduled starter Hayden Penn was sidelined with appendicitis.
"But what are you going to do?" Halama asked with a shrug. "That's the nature of my role. You have to be able to turn it off and on."
Halama got the win after allowing two runs and four hits in his second start at Safeco Field since leaving the Mariners following the 2002 season. He hopes it leads to more starts, though he hadn't heard anything Wednesday.
• The Mariners had to again dig deep into their bullpen Tuesday, using six pitchers. Hargrove said before Wednesday's game that he hoped he wouldn't have to use J.J. Putz, Julio Mateo or Rafael Soriano.
• Before the game, the Mariners honored six Olympians with Washington ties: alpine skier Scott Macartney of Redmond, luger Christian Niccum of Woodinville, speed skater Apolo Ohno of Seattle, women's hockey player Kelly Stephens of Shoreline, speed skater Kristine Holzer, a graduate of Gonzaga, and cross-country skier Sarah Konrad of the University of Washington. Ohno was chosen to throw out the first pitch.
• The first pitch for Friday's game at Minnesota has been changed to 5:32 p.m. PST so the Twins can have an on-field ceremony before the game. Gov. Tim Pawlenty will sign a bill to finance a new ballpark there.