Raul Ibanez wasn’t in the mood to hear about how fatigued his younger teammates might be.
After rock bottom met the Mariners with a resounding thud on Wednesday night, it was suggested to Ibanez that several young Mariners might have hit a proverbial wall given they’re used to a shorter minor-league season. The Mariners certainly appeared fatigued during a 6-1 loss to the bottom-feeding Houston Astros that capped a three-game sweep at the hands of the worst team in the majors.
But Ibanez, who himself has slumped this second-half after being used far more than anticipated this season, wasn’t buying the fatigue excuse.
“You know, I’m kind of the mentality that ‘fatigue’ is our troops in Afghanistan who are over there fighting and haven’t slept in three days and are dodging bullets,’’ Ibanez said. “Fatigue is part of the game, so you keep fighting through it and you make it happen. Again, in this game nobody’s going to hand you anything. Nobody’s going to feel sorry for you. So, we’re definitely not going to feel sorry for ourselves.
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“I hate to get repetitive, but the only thing we can do is keep fighting and moving forward.’’
Ibanez had popped out to end the bases loaded in the eighth inning, his team down 5-1 at that point. After that, much of the announced crowd of 11,656 at Safeco Field — as lifeless as the home side looked — made a beeline for the exits.
The Mariners managed just five hits all night and a lone run on a Kendrys Morales homer, the 100th of his career. This was the kind of game and series, in front of disinterested fans, that causes general managers and managers to worry about getting fired.
Indeed, the sight of the Mariners becoming only the second team all year to be swept by the 50-96 Astros — and outscored 25-7 in the process — will be a tough thing to gloss over. For all the talk of how this team’s youthful infusion energized the Mariners back in July, those same fuel tanks are now running on empty.
But expecting Brad Miller, Nick Franklin, Mike Zunino and other first-timers to carry the load down the stretch was a bit much. The Mariners have a number of more experienced young players — Kyle Seager, Dustin Ackley and Justin Smoak among them — who have been through the grind of a major-league season and should not be out of gas with two-plus weeks to go.
But Seager went 1 for 20 on this 2-4 homestand. Smoak went 3 for 23 and Ackley 2 for 10.
The Mariners sent Brandon Maurer to the mound for his first major-league start since May 28 after he’d worked out of the bullpen in recent weeks. Maurer got through the first inning, but yielded doubles in the second to Matt Dominguez and Marc Krauss, then Carlos Corporan followed with a run-scoring single to make it 2-0.
Brett Wallace singled to bring in another run in the third and then Dominguez hit a ground-rule double later that inning to put runners on second and third.
Chris Carter singled through the left side after that to bring in two more runs and make it 5-0. Maurer was pulled once the inning ended, his pitch count at 66.
“I tried to do the same thing tonight starting that I did in the pen,’’ he said. “It worked all right in the first inning, but then I couldn’t find the zone.’’
The Mariners have a day off Thursday before a very tough road trip to face first-place teams in St. Louis and Detroit, then on to Anaheim.
With the Mariners already on pace to lose 90 games — one season after going 75-87 — the prospect of a total collapse these final two weeks is very real. Just two months after youth was used as a selling point by the Mariners to find some positive spin in another non-contending season, it’s now being cited as a potential reason this club is 16 games under .500 and fading fast.
“We’ve got young players all over the place and the lack of experience comes into play, especially late in ballgames,” manager Eric Wedge said.
Geoff Baker: 206-464-8286 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
On Twitter @gbakermariners