Yovani Gallardo gave up five runs in the first inning, but the Mariners rallied to within a run. The comeback was halted after Dan Altavilla gave up five more runs in the sixth.
ARLINGTON, Texas — A team can only recover from so many five-run innings and expect to win. One is sometimes workable. Two? Well, it’s just a bridge, or in this case, a baseball hit too far.
After taking the initial slug of five runs scored by the Texas Rangers in the first inning Saturday, the Mariners managed to pull within a run in the top of the sixth, giving them hope of a rare road win.
But that hope of victory lasted about as long as an ice cube in the heat of Globe Life Stadium.
The Rangers rocked reliever Dan Altavilla for three homers in the bottom of the sixth, scoring five runs and turning a one-run deficit into six in a 10-4 loss for Seattle.
“Two in one game will do you in,” M’s manager Scott Servais.
Seattle dropped to 33-37 and 13-24 away from Safeco Field.
The game couldn’t have started much worse for the Mariners. Starter Yovani Gallardo gave up five runs with two outs in the first inning, punctuated by a Mike Napoli two-run homer.
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After striking out Shin-Soo Choo and getting Elvis Andrus to ground out weakly, Gallardo was up 0-2 on Nomar Mazara. But he threw three consecutive balls trying to put him away. His 3-2 fastball was hit weakly down to third base, but the Mariners were in the shift and it went for a double. From there Gallardo allowed four straight hits, including two with two strikes and Napoli’s blast.
“Honestly, I didn’t think it was going to go out,” Gallardo said. “It’s windy, and he hit it up in the air. But the pitch was up. At the end of the day, no matter the situation, I have to make a better pitch than that. If it’s lower in the zone, it’s a ground ball.”
It’s a situation that Servais has become all too familiar with this season in Gallardo’s starts.
“Two quick outs and an 0-2 count and he couldn’t finish,” Servais said. “He couldn’t finish the inning. We’ve seen that happen with Yo. The one big inning has pretty much gotten him all year.”
It has particularly of late. In five of his last six starts, he’s had one inning where he’s allowed four runs or more.
“It’s frustrating,” Gallardo said. “I have to figure out a way to stay away from that. You guys know it’s always that one inning. I’ve got to find a way to put guys away when I have two strikes.”
To Gallardo’s credit, he pitched the next four innings without allowing a run and just one hit. And the Mariners fought back to momentarily to make it a game.
Seattle trimmed a run off the lead on back-to-back doubles from Guillermo Heredia and Taylor Motter off Rangers starter Martin Perez in the second. Seattle threatened to score more, but Nelson Cruz struck out with two runners on to end the inning. Another chance was missed in the fifth when Robinson Cano struck out with runners on first and third.
“We kept pressure on them,” Servais said. “The effort was there. Guys weren’t quitting.”
The Mariners finally broke through in the sixth. A leadoff walk to Cruz and a one-out single from Danny Valencia brought catcher Mike Zunino to the plate. On the eighth pitch of the at-bat, Zunino crushed a changeup into deep center field for a three-run home run. MLB statcast measured it at 463 feet. It was his seventh homer of the season.
“I hit it well,” Zunino said. “I was fortunate to finally get a changeup up. I had a feeling on 3-2 that he may throw it, and I was just looking for something up.”
Since his brief stint in Tacoma, Zunino is hitting .324 (25 for 77) with five doubles, seven homers and 24 RBI in 22 games. In the month of June, he’s driven in 22 runs, a record for a Mariners catcher.
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“Really, I’m not trying to pull the ball,” he said. “Even the at-bat before with the ground out to third, I wish I would have stayed on the pitch more to go up the middle.”
Down by one, Servais had his bullpen mapped out. He had an over-rested Altavilla to pitch the sixth, and he was ready to match up and go with right-handers Tony Zych, Nick Vincent and Steve Cishek and lefties James Pazos and Marc Rzepczynski to get to closer Edwin Diaz.
But Altavilla, who had allowed just one run in his last seven appearances and struck out 11, suffered through an abysmal inning.
Rougned Odor hit a fly ball to right that the wind helped carry out for a leadoff homer. Altavilla hit Carlos Gomez with a pitch and left a 96 mph fastball up to Napoli, who crushed it to deep left for his second homer of the game.
Later in the inning, after a one-out error by Motter on a ground ball that allowed Joey Gallo to reach, Altavilla left a 98 mph fastball up to Shin Soo-Choo that was blasted into center.
“We were trying to go down, and it rode up on me,” Altavilla said. “That was a common theme. Everything was up and over the middle.”
Against the Rangers that’s the worst thing possible. They can hit the high fastball and hit it far.
“He got some balls up, and you just can’t do that with them,” Servais said.
Altavilla hadn’t thrown in a game since June 8, but he wouldn’t use that layoff as the reason for his lack of fastball command and poor results.”
“It was tough with the days off, but there’s no excuse,” he said. “I’ve been throwing some bullpens in between. Sometimes they get you, and today they did.”