OAKLAND, Calif. — The thing about a nearly empty stadium is that it can still be loud in different ways.
Instead of a lingering din that drowns out the individual voices and words into a cacophony, it offers individual voice resonation.
So on Wednesday night at the Oakland Coliseum with a crowd of less than 1,000 people dispersed around the decaying concrete structure, the displeasure of the Mariners fans, the majority in the minimal crowd, could be heard quite clearly.
Complaints aimed at left fielder Jesse Winker and manager Scott Servais echoed — most not fit for print in a newspaper or scratched on a bathroom stall — after an ugly seventh inning.
Angry boos of frustration could be heard. And just when it seemed like they might relent, they got a second wind of volume.
And, well, they were somewhat deserved as the Mariners were defeated for the second straight night by one of the worst teams — by record and talent — in baseball.
Another lackluster performance at the plate, a rare run allowed from the two best setup relievers in the bullpen and an all-too familiar mistake in the outfield resulted in a disappointing 2-1 loss to the Oakland A’s.
With the loss, the Mariners fell to 81-67 on the season. They’ve dropped five of six on this road trip and have showed only hints of the team that had played its way into one of three wild card spots that has yet to be clinched.
“Obviously we’re just not playing as well, not playing up to our capabilities and there’s no excuses,” said outfielder Mitch Haniger. “Baseball is a hard game. You’ve got to be able to take it on the chin, learn from it, move on and keep showing up. We need to keep putting in the work and staying positive.”
Seattle starter Robbie Ray gave the Mariners six scoreless innings of work while his teammates provided him with nothing resembling run support.
With his leverage relievers rested, perhaps a little too rested from no leads to protect over the last week, and ready to pitch, Servais called on setup man Erik Swanson to keep the A’s scoreless in the seventh.
Swanson issued a four-pitch walk to the first batter, Jordan Diaz, which wasn’t typical of his outings this season.
With a lineup filled with right-handed hitters to face Ray, Oakland manager Mark Kotsay called on left-swinging Vimael Machin to pinch hit. The rookie infielder punched a line drive into the left-field corner.
Left fielder Winker ran over to field the ball and try to keep Diaz from scoring. Instead, the ball bounced off the wall and then off the heel of his glove, bouncing between his legs. Seeing that, Diaz started racing for home. Winker then picked up the ball and fired it nowhere near both middle infielders who were standing in the outfield grass, serving as potential cutoff men.
“I just missed it,” Winker said. “It took a weird hop and I missed it.”
Given the Mariners’ run-scoring woes of late, the mistake felt more magnified in the close game.
“Oh, very much so,” Servais said. “It’s not a difficult play. The ball is off the wall — catch it and get it in. He wasn’t able to do that. It’s something that we’ll continue to look at. Jesse has played a really long time and it’s been a struggle for him recently. With where we’re at in the season, we have made defensive replacements late in games when we do have a lead.”
This isn’t the first time that Winker’s subpar defense has led to runs. But will it be the last time we see him in left field? By most metrics and observations, he’s been one of the worst defensive outfielders in baseball.
“Unfortunately, stuff like this has happened to me before,” he said. “I don’t know if it’s cliche answer or not, but it’s baseball, as weird as it is.”
With Jarred Kelenic called up on Wednesday, the Mariners might finally make a change that they’ve intended to implement in the second half, but couldn’t due to the timing of various injuries and lineup issues. Winker could move into more of a designated hitter role with Kelenic, Sam Haggerty and Dylan Moore seeing more time in left field. With only 14 games remaining and a postseason spot not yet clinched, the Mariners need better run prevention from the spot.
Asked where he thought Winker is at defensively, Servais replied: “I think we know where we’re at. We’ve got to get better.”
There was dejection in Winker’s voice postgame. He’s endured an abysmal season. After an All-Star season with the Reds in 2021, he’s posted a .216/.338/.339 slash line with 15 doubles, 13 homers, 48 RBI, 80 walks and 99 strikeouts. He has five hits in his past 16 games and 58 plate appearances. Over his past 23 games, he has just one extra-base hit (a double) and one RBI in 84 plate appearances.
“This isn’t what I come to the field to perform like,” he said. “I want to help the team win. And as of late, I really haven’t been. You just keep running back out there. I believe in myself. It’s not a lack of belief, but it’s just sometimes these things string together.”
After Swanson allowed a bloop single to Christian Pache, putting runners on first and third, Servais called on Andres Munoz to limit the damage to one run in the inning.
Munoz struck out Nick Allen for the first out of the inning, but surrendered a single to veteran Tony Kemp that scored Machin.
Over his six scoreless innings, Ray allowed just three hits with three walks and seven strikeouts. His sixth strikeout of the game gave him 200 on the season. He is the seventh Mariners pitcher to reach 200 strikeouts in a season.
The Mariners’ offense consisted of Luis Torrens’ pinch-hit homer in the eighth inning. Otherwise, they mustered a couple of hits and never threatened to score against starter James Kaprielian, who tossed seven shutout innings.