The Mariners entered winners of two straight, but have now lost nine of their last 11.
Mariners manager Eric Wedge quickly walked down the hallway and stepped into his office, where general manager Jack Zduriencik and pitching coach Carl Willis were waiting for him.
It’s not unusual for such meetings after games — in fact, it’s fairly common — but the three men needed to talk. More to the point, they needed to discuss the future of Brandon Maurer, the 22-year-old pitcher who struggled once again in a 6-1 loss Tuesday to the San Diego Padres.
“It’s fair to say we’ve got a lot to talk about after I get done talking to you guys,” Wedge said, cracking a smile.
At the top of the list is what to do with Maurer (2-7), who allowed six runs (five earned) in 5-2/3 innings. His earned-run average ballooned to 6.93 through 10 major-league starts.
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It wasn’t all bad for Maurer. At times, he showed why he earned a spot on the roster to begin with, including a three-pitch strikeout of Chase Headley, the Padres’ No. 3 hitter, with a man on third.
But consistency, the issue that has haunted Maurer this season, was again lacking. And that leaves the Mariners with a decision: Send Maurer down to Class AAA Tacoma to join Jesus Montero and Dustin Ackley, or allow him to work out his problems at the big-league level?
“I don’t think he’s that far,” Wedge said of Maurer’s ability to pitch at a high level. “It’s just a matter of what’s the best path to get to that consistently.”
Wedge wouldn’t say which way the club was leaning. Maurer failed to go at least six innings for the fourth time in his last five starts. He has also given up at least three earned runs in each of his last five starts.
Maurer flirted with trouble almost from the beginning, but he managed to reel himself in early. In the first inning, he gave up two hits with two outs but avoided damage by getting Yonder Alonso to fly out. In the third, he struck out Headley with a runner on third.
But that tiptoe act caught up to him.
Maurer nearly avoided trouble in the fourth by getting a potential inning-ending grounder. But Carlos Quentin just beat the throw to second, keeping the inning alive. Jedd Gyorko then made the Mariners pay by ripping a two-run homer.
In the fifth, Maurer gave up a solo homer to Alexi Amarista before it started unraveling for him in the sixth. The right-hander gave up two singles, then threw a wild pitch which advanced the runners with one out. Maurer walked the next batter and Mark Kotsay followed with a two-run single.
The Padres scored another run in the inning when Nick Franklin, making his first big-league start at second base, botched a routine grounder.
“I felt like he was better earlier,” Wedge said of Maurer. “I felt like he was in his delivery early on and had command of the ball better early on. But when things start going, that’s when he puts a little more effort into it and loses some of his command. It’s not a question of stuff, but he has to be able to keep that same intensity level and tempo when things start happening to be able to control damage.”
For his part, Maurer said he fell into patterns and threw the same pitches in the same counts. Basically, he went to the well too many times, and the Padres started to catch on.
“This is definitely a challenging level,” Maurer said.
The offense provided little in the way of relief. The Mariners managed just four hits, had one runner or fewer in six innings and had just one extra-base hit.
Worse, the Mariners watched Michael Morse leave with an injury. Morse left in the fourth after trying to score from first on a Michael Saunders double. He strained his right quad while rounding third and is listed as day-to-day. Wedge said it’s likely Morse will miss at least a game or two.
The Mariners’ run came in the second inning, when they loaded the bases with no outs. Jesus Sacre drove in the run on a sacrifice fly, but that’s all the Mariners produced as the Padres retired Franklin and Brendan Ryan.
And now the Mariners, losers of nine of their last 11, are left with decisions.
“With young kids it’s a little different because if you feel like you need to do something,” Wedge said, “then you’ve got to consider doing that. We’ll talk about it and go from there.”