OAKLAND, Calif. — Wasted chances and costly mistakes.
While the cliché would be to say that it sounds like the title of a country or an emo song, the status of the Mariners achieves a bitter melancholy far worse than either genre could elicit. And any lyrics would be filled with curse words and tinged with regret.
The most recent failure, a 6-2 loss to the A’s on Friday night, only added to the prolonged misery that includes a four-game losing streak and losses in 19 of their last 24 games. The Mariners were 18-11 on April 26. They are now 23-30. Perhaps their only blessing is that rookie left-hander Yusei Kikuchi is starting Saturday. They’ve picked up victories in five of his last six starts.
“We are just trying to fight and get through this,” Mariners outfielder Mitch Haniger said. “We’re showing up every day and putting in the work. We are trying to get better every day. That’s the main goal is come to the ballpark, work to get better, make adjustments and hope the results come sooner than later.”
The most glaring reason for this defeat was their inability to take advantage of the multitude of runners they put on base. Seattle was 3 for 12 with runners in scoring position while stranding 15 runners. It probably would have been 16 if Haniger didn’t get picked off in sixth inning. For those curious, the club record for most runners left on base in one game is 18 set June 27, 2008 vs. the Padres.
“We did all kinds of good things as far as running up the pitch count and getting a lot of opportunities out there,” M’s manager Scott Servais said. “But you have to get big hits with runners in scoring position on the road.”
Facing reliever/starter Daniel Mengden and his waxed mustache, the Mariners managed to score one run in four innings while leaving the bases loaded in the first, two runners on in the second, bases loaded in the third and another in the fourth.
That one run came in the first when Daniel Vogelbach scored from second on a two-out single from Domingo Santana. The Mariners were actually fortunate that A’s first baseman Matt Olson cut off a throw from Ramon Laureano that was headed for home. Replays showed that it had a chance to get the less-than-fleet Vogelbach.
But one run needed to be at least three runs from that much traffic.
“Unfortunately, we couldn’t get that one good swing to drive some guys home in the first few innings,” Haniger said.
Fittingly, they left the bases loaded in the ninth. Down 6-2, Seattle loaded the bases with two outs against A’s closer Blake Treinen. But Shed Long’s line drive to the right side was caught for the final out.
Mariners starter Wade LeBlanc cruised through the first three innings without incident, allowing his first hit in the third. That base runner was quickly erased when the next batter, Nick Hundley, hit into an inning-ending 6-4-3 double play.
But his outing fell apart in the fourth inning as he faced the A’s for a second time. After watching LeBlanc pound the strike zone for early called strikes and seeing the widening strike zone of home plate umpire Bill Welke, the A’s switched their approach and it worked.
After Marcus Semien worked a leadoff walk, Oakland’s middle of the order got ultra-aggressive early in the count. The next four batters — Chad Pinder, Matt Chapman, Stephen Piscotty and Matt Olson — all took vicious swings at the first pitch of their at-bats with varying levels of success. J.P. Crawford caught Pinder’s rocket for the first out. Chapman hit a fly ball to Haniger for the second out.
But that third out was elusive. Piscotty’s line drive was just out of the reach of a leaping Crawford for a single. But the gut punch was a misplaced first-pitch curveball in Olson’s preferred swing path which resulted in a booming three-run homer to deep right-center and a 3-1 lead.
“They were very aggressive the second time through, and we anticipated that happening tonight,” Servais said. “They’ve seen Wade a lot and know what he does.”
Oh, but the scoring wasn’t finished. Mark Canha waited till the second pitch of his at-bat to club a 1-0 fastball into the left field for back-to-back homers and a 4-1 lead.
“They caught a couple of mistakes, and those didn’t come back,” LeBlanc said. “That’s what happens when things aren’t going well. Sometimes you get away with them. Sometimes you don’t. If they are going to be aggressive, that’s fine. I still have to be in the strike zone. I just have to make better pitches. Two mistakes left the yard for four runs.”
It took a while, but the Mariners got one of those runs back with a rare hit with a runner in scoring position. Domingo Santana hit a one-out double over the head of Ramon Laureano in center. He later scored on Tim Beckham’s two-out double to left field. With a possible rally building, A’s manager Bob Melvin went to right-hander Lou Trivino — one of the best setup men in baseball. Trivino struck out Long swinging on four pitches, none of which were actually in the strike zone.
After six clean innings of baseball, the Mariners, in what is seemingly an every-game event, committed an error in the field. This one led to a run. With Laureano on third base, Semien, who had worked a two-out walk off Connor Sadzeck, tried to steal second. Mariners catcher Omar Narvaez’s throw was so far offline that Crawford couldn’t catch it. Laureano, who had no intention of going home on the throw down, hustled home for a 5-2 lead. It was the Mariners’ 57th error this season and their 46th unearned run allowed — both totals lead all of MLB by a distinct margin.
The A’s tacked on another run in the eighth when Piscotty whacked a solo homer off Sadzeck to make it 6-2.