Steve Cishek replaces Edwin Diaz in closer role, but allows two-run homer to Matt Joyce and Oakland goes on to 9-6 victory.
You just knew it would come down to a nail-biting, hide-your-eyes save situation. That’s how it works in baseball. The day you demote your closer without having a true heir apparent, the game forces you into back into that place with questions that don’t have answers.
A 9-6 gut punch of a loss to the Oakland A’s and a reminder of all the reasons Edwin Diaz was promoted to closer on the first day of August last season.
Oakland @ Mariners, 7:10 p.m., ROOT
“It was a disappointing finish,” manager Scott Servais said. “Our guys really hung in there and battled to get us into a good spot.”
That battle was without rewards.
With the announcement that Diaz had been stripped of his closing duties before Tuesday’s game following Monday night’s walk-filled debacle of a ninth inning, the Mariners, of course, found themselves trying to protect a one-run lead in the ninth inning.
The lingering euphoria of Kyle Seager’s homer in the bottom of the eighth to cap an unlikely three-run comeback evaporated just two hitters into the top of the ninth.
Servais said he would play matchups and use multiple relievers to piece together the ninth, particularly with multiple relievers unavailable.
But the damage fell on veteran Steve Cishek, who lost his closing job to Diaz last season, and was pitching for a second straight game after coming off the disabled list on Monday.
“Our bullpen was thin tonight,” Servais said. “Putting Cishek in that spot, it’s tough. He hasn’t been back here in a long time. But he’s been out there before.”
Brought in to start the ninth, Cishek gave up a soft single to pinch-hitter Rajai Davis, bringing to the plate the tepid-hitting Matt Joyce, who came into the game with a .202 batting average and four homers.
With nobody warming up in the bullpen, specifically either of the Mariners’ two lefties — James Pazos or Marc Rzepczynski — Cishek pitched to Joyce.
Cishek left a 2-1 fastball over the middle that Joyce turned on and lined just over the wall in right field for a two-run homer and a 6-5 lead.
“I was ready,” Cishek said. “I felt better than I did yesterday, which is the sad thing. I was commanding my fastball in the bullpen, my slider felt really good and I was confident out there. Obviously, it’s not how I drew it up.”
Oakland later added three kick-while-you-are-down runs off Rzepczynski to put the game well out of reach.
Why not go to a lefty-on-lefty matchup specifically for Joyce after Cishek gave up the single to Davis? Besides Diaz, right-handers Nick Vincent and Tony Zych were unavailable.
“Tony is coming off surgery and we didn’t want to use him last night, but it was kind of a 9-1-1 call to save it,” Servais said. “Vincent has been outstanding, but we’ve been running him very hard. There are some nights that are tough to swallow.”
The inning wouldn’t end. Cishek walked a batter and got an out before giving way to Rzepczynski.
The veteran lefty struck out lefty-swinging Yonder Alonso for the second out. Trevor Plouffe was intentionally walked to set up force outs. It didn’t matter when Mark Canha crushed a 3-2 slider over the wall in center.
At that point any remaining stragglers from the crowd of 13,955 headed for the warmth of their vehicles at a rapid rate.
On the day that Robinson Cano was placed on the 10-day disabled list, Seager, the player the Mariners most desperately needed to get hot in his absence, delivered in a big way. Seager broke a 4-4 tie in the bottom of the eighth with his fourth homer of the season and second in as many games.
The looming absence of Cano in the middle of the Mariners’ lineup was an issue in the four games that the Mariners lost in Toronto, where they scored a total of six runs. And it was there again Tuesday night. But this is the Mariners’ immediate future — a lineup without their most talented hitter for at least the next seven days.
The Mariners placed their all-star second baseman on the 10-day disabled list with a strained right quadriceps. The move is retroactive to May 13 (the maximum number of days a DL stint can retroactively dated), meaning Cano can return on May 23 — the first day of the Mariners’ trip starting in Washington.
Cano underwent a MRI and met with team doctors Tuesday morning. The decision was then made to put him on the disabled list.
Seattle managed just one run over the first six innings against Oakland’s soft-tossing starter Andrew Triggs — a first-inning solo homer from Nelson Cruz batting in Cano’s No. 3 spot.
It wasn’t enough to offset the four runs given up by starter Chase De Jong in his six innings of work.
Down 4-1 and looking like it would be another nondescript, offense-lacking loss, the Mariners tied the score in the seventh with a lot of help from the A’s defense.