The crisp night air felt electric as Jarred Kelenic rounded the bases. His pinch-hit, two-run homer in the eighth inning had turned a one-run deficit into a one-run lead, sending 20,000-plus fans in T-Mobile Park into a raucous frenzy.
His outburst of emotion and the intense celebration with teammates in front of the Mariners’ dugout only raised the decibels.
Would it be a breakthrough moment for the once-heralded prospect still trying to find his way in the big leagues? Would a comeback win stop a brutal stretch of losing and be a springboard to a streak of success?
Roughly 15 minutes later, the time it took for Paul Sewald to give up back-to-back singles with one out and serve up a three-run homer to Manuel Margot, all the hope and excitement from the building dissipated and a familiar feeling of frustration had returned.
Even after Eugenio Suarez hit a solo homer cut the lead to one run in the bottom of the ninth, the hope for victory remained fleeting. The Rays brought in lefty Brooks Raley, who retired the next three batters to end the game.
All losses sting, and the Mariners have felt plenty of hurt in the last two weeks, but this 8-7 loss might have been the most painful.
“A lot of really good things in that game tonight,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said. “Obviously, we’re disappointed it didn’t go our way at the end. It’s been struggle for us to kind of get on the right side on one of these. I thought it was gonna happen tonight.”
They lost a game they should’ve won and have lost five games in a row and nine of their last 10 to fall to 12-15. They lost a game that Logan Gilbert started, which hadn’t happened this season, and a game where they actually scored more than three runs. And they lost catcher Tom Murphy to a dislocated left shoulder.
“You gotta grind,” Servais said. “Everybody has these stretches throughout the course of the season. We’re in one now. Everybody’s got to deal with some adversity, whether it’s injuries or lack of performance by certain guys, or you are off to a bad start, or you’re not getting any lucky and getting anything to go your way. Everybody deals with it and nobody feels sorry for you.”
Pitching on back-to-back days for the first time this season and having missed 10 games due to COVID-19, Sewald wasn’t quite as sharp as the pitcher who hadn’t allowed a base runner in six innings this season.
“Not quite as sharp tonight obviously,” Servais said. “Paul usually has the hop on his fastball. When he gets up at the top of the zone, it usually works out pretty well for him. He wasn’t quite able to get it up there tonight.”
Sewald didn’t think fatigue was the issue.
“Going back-to-back is part of a reliever’s job,” Sewald said. “It’s disappointing that happens in my first back-to-back, so it looks like it’s a thing. It’s not a thing.”
The frustration building on this losing stretch is turning to a thing.
“Our offense has been grinding and then it’s the day we give up eight, unfortunately,” Sewald said. “That’s just the way losing streaks work. When you pitch well, you don’t hit. When you hit, you don’t pitch. It’s just been like that for two weeks.”
The Mariners banged out 11 hits and worked six walks with Suarez hitting two homers and Kelenic’s late heroics.
“I was just trying to get a good pitch with Julio (Rodriguez) at first,” Kelenic said. “I was gonna do everything I could to try to get him in scoring position just because we needed a run there. The home run was great. It’s just icing on the cake, but my only goal was just trying to get him in scoring position for the guys behind me.”
Gilbert pitched five innings, allowing four runs with three walks and six strikeouts.
Suarez gave Gilbert a brief 2-0 lead, smacking his fifth homer of the season — a two-run blast into Edgar’s Cantina off right-hander Matt Wisler.
But three of the four runs came in the second inning. With two outs and runners on first and second, Gilbert allowed three consecutive RBI singles — all line drive singles to center off breaking pitches — to Yandy Diaz (knuckle curve), Wander Franco (slider) and Randy Arozarena (slider).
Seeing that the Rays were hitting his off-speed pitches with authority, Gilbert turned to his mid 90s fastball and found success.
He retired seven consecutive batters and his teammates retook the lead in the fourth. Suarez worked a leadoff walk off lefty Josh Fleming. Jesse Winker followed with his first of two doubles to put runners on second and third with no outs. Abraham Toro scored Suarez with a sacrifice fly to left and Dylan Moore plated Winker with a single to left to make it 4-3.