The Mariners have lost five straight games, scoring one run in each.
WASHINGTON, D.C. — After having to do so far too often a month and a half into this season, Mariners manager Scott Servais could no longer defend his team, its play and the results it produced.
His face still red in anger, and voice shaking while trying to control his obvious irritation, the Mariners’ manager questioned his team’s effort and intensity levels following their fifth-straight defeat — a 5-1 loss to the Nationals that didn’t really even seem that close. The Mariners fell to 20-27 and are battling it out with the Royals (19-27) for the worst record in the American League.
“We’ve got to pick up our intensity,” Servais said. “We are better than this. I’ve about had enough of this. We need to dial it up a little bit.”
Servais has opted not to be overly critical of his team, particularly when it comes to effort or commitment, in his media sessions. He chooses to hold those conversations in the privacy of his office instead of airing out grievances through the media. But his atypical response came after a fourth straight loss in which the Mariners fell behind early and showed little hope of coming back.
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The last time Servais questioned the intensity of his team came after a 2-8 start to the season. He met with his leadership group of Nelson Cruz, Robinson Cano, Felix Hernandez and Kyle Seager, and then spoke with groups of players before going into the second home series of the season against the Rangers on May 11. It resulted in four straight wins and a 5-1 stretch. But that was also when Felix Hernandez, James Paxton, Hisashi Iwakuma and Mitch Haniger were all healthy and playing. Now the Mariners are forced to use a rotation held together by duct tape and Class AAA call-ups. Still, sympathy won’t help the Mariners throw strikes or score runs. And Servais is done lamenting injuries following losses.
“We know we are banged up, nobody cares,” Servais said. “Nobody feels sorry for you in this league. You have to go out and fight and claw and scratch and figure out a way. It’s just not happening right now. There’s only way to get out of this hole, you have to dig yourself out of it because nobody cares. Players are frustrated, we are frustrated, we are better than this.”
The oft-romanticized team meeting might not happen, but discussions were had postgame.
“We’ll talk about,” Servais said. “Players have talked about. They had a meeting. Staff has met. We’ll get back after it tomorrow.”
In the visitor’s clubhouse at Nationals Park, the Mariners dressed with their heads down while others ate in the dining room. Conversations were quiet and brief.
Kyle Seager stepped forward to play spokesman, looking around and seeing no other everyday player available.
“It’s definitely been frustrating and the last little bit has been very frustrating,” he said. “We don’t like to lose and we certainly don’t like to lose in the fashion we’ve been losing. It’s nothing crazy. We just have to play better.”
The Mariners have scored one run in each of the last five losses. A team that once averaged the second most runs in the American League is now averaging 4.42 runs per game, below the AL average.
“We’ve got nothing going offensively right now,” Servais said.
In their last four losses, the Seattle starting pitchers have combined to give up 30 runs in 16 2/3 innings. The Mariners have fallen behind by large deficits in the last four games, leaving minimal hope of coming back. It certainly can lead to a negative mindset for players.
“It does if we let it,” Seager said. “And unfortunately, we’ve let it. You get a five-run deficit in the first or second inning, in the grand scheme of things that’s something you can fight out of and you can bounce back from. We haven’t done that. We need to do a better job of that. We need to do better.”
Seager shrugged off the need to have a team meeting.
“We know what we need to do, everybody knows what we need to do,” he said. “You get down early, it’s a long game. It doesn’t change anything. We have a good offense and we can score runs. Instead of sulking, we need to play better and go out there and grind our at-bats. We have to keep fighting because certainly nobody is going to feel sorry for us.”
Robinson Cano gave the Mariners their first lead of any sort since the fifth inning of Friday’s 2-1, 10-inning loss to the White Sox. Following a hustling double from Seager in the first inning off Nationals starter Tanner Roark, Cano lined a single down the third-base line for a very brief 1-0 lead.
If not for an error from his defense and one regrettable pitch to the white-hot Anthony Rendon, the outing for Seattle starter Sam Gaviglio and the outcome for the Mariners might have been much different.
The error came on the Mariners’ first play in the field. Gaviglio got Nats leadoff hitter to hit a routine ground ball to shortstop. But Jean Segura’s throw was high and pulled Danny Valencia off the bag, allowing Turner to reach safely. Turner would later score on Ryan Zimmerman’s sacrifice fly to right field. With two outs, Gaviglio couldn’t keep it to just one run. He gave up a double to Daniel Murphy and then left a 1-1 slider over the middle of the plate that Rendon slammed over the wall in left center for a three-run homer to make it 4-1.
All four runs in the inning were unearned because of the Segura error. But they still counted, and the Mariners were never able to rally.
Gaviglio gave up an earned run in the second inning. But he managed to make it through six innings, giving up six hits with two walks and a strikeout.
Cano, who had three hits on the night, could’ve driven in two runs in the game — an offensive explosion given the past few games. He appeared to have hit his ninth homer of the season on a line drive to deep left center. But Nats’ center fielder Michael A. Taylor made a leaping attempt at the ball. While he couldn’t keep the ball in his glove, he pulled it back into the field play. A hobbling Cano, who is still feeling the effects of a strained quad, had to settle for a double. And his team settled for one run.