NEW YORK — They’ve found themselves in this situation more than once this season, reeling into the reality of a team that was expected to be below average at best and 90-plus-losses bad at worst by baseball analysts and predictive algorithms.

Each time, they’ve avoided the season-defining decline to irrelevance, dragging themselves out of the downward spiral and finding success with a stretch of wins.

Can the Mariners find a way to do it one more time with their fading postseason hopes depending on it?

With a disappointing 5-4 loss to the Yankees on a muggy Saturday afternoon, the Mariners have lost four straight games and the first three of this pivotal four-game series to a team they are competing with for the second wild-card spot.

The Mariners have fallen to 58-54 and four games behind the Yankees (61-49) in the race for the second wild card. Of their past six losses, five have been by one run.

“It’s been a long trip, third city of the trip with a four-game series at the end in this environment,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said. “It’s got its challenges, but our guys will be ready to go tomorrow, just like they were today. Hopefully, we can pick up a game here and then head back home.”


Indeed, getting out of the city that never sleeps and the ballpark where they can’t seem to catch a break with a victory in Sunday’s series finale could be vital. The Mariners will send left-hander Yusei Kikuchi to the mound while New York will start rookie right-hander Luis Gil in place of ace Gerrit Cole, who is missing his second scheduled start on the COVID injured list.

The two things they’ve counted on for this season’s unexpected success — solid relief pitching and defense — have failed them in this four-game losing streak.

“We’ve been playing really clean games as far as making the plays and really executing out there on defense,” Servais said. “A couple miscues today hurt us and playing a talented team like this, in this ballpark, it can catch up with you.”

After being given a 2-0 lead before throwing a pitch, starter Chris Flexen labored through the first inning, serving up a two-out solo blast to Aaron Judge and needing 30 pitches to complete the inning.

But as he’s done so often, Flexen made an in-game adjustment and gave the Mariners a solid outing. He worked the next four innings scoreless, allowing just two base runners and reeling in his pitch count.

“I just continued to attack guys and execute pitches,” Flexen said. “I thought I had all four today going pretty well. It just came down execution.”


With Flexen’s pitch count at 91 and lefty Anthony Misiewicz up and throwing in the bullpen, Servais let his starter return for the sixth inning, hoping to steal a few more outs to provide some relief for a bullpen that’s been heavily taxed on this road trip.

Flexen gave up a leadoff single to Giancarlo Stanton to start the sixth that brought Rougned Odor to the plate.

On the surface, it would seem going to Misiewicz for the left-on-left matchup would be ideal. But Servais knew that Odor had a .286/.375/.571 slash line against left-handed pitchers and a .202/.276/.357 slash line vs. right-handed pitchers.

“Flex threw the ball really well in the fourth and the fifth,” Servais said. “Looking at bringing him out there, I thought that the two hitters if anybody was on base, I’d probably go get Miz at Gardner. And the fact that Flex had owned (Odor) throughout the course of the game and felt really good about that.”

Odor put an ugly, lunging swing on a changeup about six inches below the strike zone. He managed to get the barrel of the bat on the ball while dropping down to one knee on the follow through, sending a looping fly ball to right field.

Mitch Haniger could only watch as the ball somehow just eked over the wall for a two-run homer.


Flexen watched it go over. He wanted to feel disbelief, but couldn’t given what he’d seen in the previous two games.

“I thought it was a good pitch,” he said. “It’s a coin toss here when the ball goes up in the air to right field. Yeah, one-hand (swing) on one knee at 89 mph off the bat and not hit very hard. It went out. That was the result.”

Per MLB Statcast, Odor’s homer had an exit velocity of 89 mph with a 32-degree launch angle and traveled 328 feet. Based on metrics, a fly ball in play with those measures has an expected batting average of .030. Of course, Statcast doesn’t factor in the short porch that is right field in Yankee Stadium. Only one homer hit this season had a lower exit velocity. It was 88.7 mph off the bat of Abraham Toro against the Mariners on July 26 at T-Mobile Park. Toro was traded to the Mariners the next day.

Odor’s cheap homer ended Flexen’s outing with Seattle clinging to a 4-3 lead.

With Misiewicz on the mound, the inning went from bad to decisively worse when Gleyber Torres, who was called on to pinch hit, lofted a high fly ball to right field that Haniger overran and fell awkwardly trying to correct his mistake. The ball hit the outfield grass, allowing Torres to advance all the way to third.

“Like most teams do here, the right fielder plays a little bit more towards the gap just because it’s so short in right field,” Servais said. “He had long run. When it gets up high like that, the wind really did push it back hard on him. It’s a play that Mitch usually makes, all our guys do.”


As expected, Kyle Higashioka pinch hit for Rob Brantly against Misiewicz. Higashioka tied the game on a double off the wall to left.

The Yankees took the lead when Anthony Rizzo hit a hard ground ball to Ty France near the first-base bag. With runners on the corners, France stepped on the bag and immediately turned to throw to second, ignoring Higashioka at third base. Judge wisely stopped running, knowing there was no longer a force play. It caused France to hesitate. And Higashioka kept on motoring home for the go-ahead run.

“He did it right in the fact that he got the out at first,” Servais said. “He just froze up. He’s disappointed. It’s a play that you talk about all the time. If he throws home, he’s got him out relatively easy. He’s probably 30 feet from home plate at that point.”

An inning that should’ve been two runs was now four.

“It happens and it’s not for lack of effort or focus or anything like that,” Servais said. “We didn’t execute in those spots and make those plays and turn them into what they needed to be. It does happen over the course of a long season. But it’s very uncharacteristic of this group. It’s something that has allowed us to have a good season to this point and have a winning record because we have executed in those spots.”