MIAMI — The road trip is finally over, but will the losing end?
The Mariners believe it will. They’ve said all the right things as the losing streak went from four to five and now six games with Sunday’s 3-2 loss to the Miami Marlins at Marlins Park.
“It’s all right, we’ll get out of this,” said reliever Tom Wilhelmsen, who took the loss. “We are a much better team than this. There is no other way to feel either. We know what we have going here. It’s just a bump in the road.”
They aren’t panicking. They aren’t pressing. They also aren’t playing well or winning.
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And manager Lloyd McClendon was frank about the solution to fixing it.
“The only way we are going to snap out of this if our guys start performing a little better,” McClendon said. “It was a great game, but we had some opportunities to get some things done and we just didn’t do it.”
The Mariners played with a lead much of the game, getting a run in the second inning on a sacrifice fly from Justin Smoak and a run in the fourth on a sac fly from Dustin Ackley. But there was an uneasy feeling to that lead. With an overworked bullpen, that would have to be used extensively because of starter Brandon Maurer’s pitch limitations, two runs didn’t seem like it was going to be enough.
And it wasn’t.
Miami finally got to a tiring Maurer in the fifth inning, scoring a run on Donovan Solano’s bloop single to right field to cut it to 2-1.
In the eighth inning, talented rookie Christian Yelich led off with a double off the left-field fence against Charlie Furbush. McClendon went to right-hander Wilhelmsen to get out of the inning. Wilhelmsen got Marcell Ozuna to fly out and then intentionally walked the ultra-dangerous Giancarlo Stanton.
But Wilhelmsen’s next walk wasn’t intentional. He issued a free pass to Casey McGehee, not getting called strikes on a couple of borderline pitches that McClendon and catcher John Buck felt could have been strikes.
“I was wanting to keep the ball low to get the double play,” Wilhelmsen said. “Maybe some guys call them and some guys don’t. I have to look at that and realize he’s not calling them and make an adjustment.”
With the bases loaded, Wilhelmsen got Garrett Jones to hit a soft ground ball to first base. Smoak fielded the slow hopper and fired home to try and get the speedy Yelich. Home plate umpire Ed Hickox ruled Yelich out. But at first glance it looked as though Yelich beat the throw. Marlins manager Mike Redmond appealed and it was overturned. The run counted and the score was tied at 2-2.
“I fielded it and threw it and he must have got a tremendous jump,” Smoak said. “I think that hop gave him time to get there. I fielded it clean enough.”
Wilhelmsen then gave up a sacrifice fly to Adeiny Hechavarria that scored Stanton and gave the Marlins the 3-2 lead.
The Mariners had a good chance to tie it in the ninth. Corey Hart blooped a double into right-center off Miami closer Steve Cishek to start the inning. Ackley then hammered a hard ground ball up the middle that seemed like a sure hit. But Hechavarria made a brilliant stop and fired to first to get Ackley. The play allowed pinch-runner Brad Miller to move to third.
But most times that would have been an RBI hit.
“That’s what happens when you are in losing streaks like this,” McClendon said. “It could have been a double.”
Still, the Mariners had a runner on third with one out — a simple fly ball would likely be enough. Cishek walked Smoak, but then came back to strike out Nick Franklin for the big second out. McClendon turned to pinch-hitter Michael Saunders. Cishek struck him out to complete the series sweep.
Earlier, the Mariners had chances to add to the lead. The biggest opportunity came in the seventh when Seattle loaded the bases with two outs and called on pinch-hitter Kyle Seager to push a run across. He couldn’t. Marlins reliever Carlos Marmol struck out Seager on three pitches to end the inning.
“We’ll keep searching, keep working on it and hopefully get it right tomorrow night,” McClendon said. “ Our guys are going out and playing hard, but we just haven’t gotten over the hump in the last six days.”
Facing the Houston Astros (5-14) at Safeco Field could help them get over that hump. Having Felix Hernandez (3-0, 1.91 ERA) start Monday helps more. They will ask him to do what No. 1 starters do — stop losing streaks.
Ryan Divish: 206-464-2373 or firstname.lastname@example.org.