Well, they weren’t swept for the series and the season.
It’s difficult to imagine that manager Scott Servais or the Mariners players will take solace in that or in the seemingly impossible search for positives about their experiences in playing the Detroit Tigers during the 2021 season, which have been suboptimal at best and abysmal at worst.
All the emotion and enthusiasm from Wednesday’s extra-innings victory, where they made brilliant plays in the field and came up with clutch hits at the plate, were absent in Thursday afternoon’s lackluster 8-3 drubbing by Detroit.
“I wish there was a good way to spin that, but I don’t think there is,” Servais said. “We played a bad game. We didn’t pitch well today. We didn’t play great defense. We just got nothing going. It’s certainly disappointing coming off kind of a high last night. It was a really exciting game. We did a lot of good things late in that game, but it certainly didn’t carry over today.”
The Mariners end the six-game season series with the Tigers with a 1-5 record while being outscored 34-18 with nine of those runs coming in their only win. Detroit’s five wins over Seattle are the most of any team it has faced in 2021.
“For whatever reason, we did not play well against the Detroit Tigers this year,” Servais said. “They had our number. I wish I had an answer for it.”
Making it more galling, the Mariners, who have endured a myriad of losses on days when they were forced to make a bullpen start, were beaten with Detroit being forced to use the same strategy.
Manager A.J. Hinch used a total of six relievers to work through nine innings, limiting the Mariners to three runs on six hits. Two of those hits were solo dingers from Mitch Haniger, who now has 16 home runs on the season.
Otherwise, they were stymied with runners in scoring position, going 0-for-7 and leaving seven runners on base.
Meanwhile, Seattle got a less than desirable start from lefty Justus Sheffield. Making his 11th start of the season, he lasted just four innings, giving up five runs (three earned) on six hits with a walk and three strikeouts.
“I didn’t command my fastball as well as I wanted to,” he said. “Going into it, I knew that I wanted to go inside, just pound in and pound in. And the pitches that I did make, I felt like they were just off and I wasn’t getting the calls. I was falling behind and that was making me pitch more toward the middle.”
Of his 87 pitches thrown, 50 were strikes with 14 swings and misses. But he threw just nine first-pitch strikes to 22 batters faced.
“You’ve got to get ahead in the count and not just pitch behind all day,” Servais said. “You’ve got to get ahead. With our pitching, we’re very competitive. We’re really good when we dominate the 0-0, 1-0 counts and we just we haven’t done it. We didn’t do it today. It hurt us.”
Sheffield called it frustrating.
“I wanted to attack and go right at these dudes. Instead, I kept falling behind,” he said. “If you keep falling behind, the pitch count is going to rise up and you won’t be in the game very long.”
And his teammates did little to help him out defensively, never allowing him to give the Mariners more innings.
Haniger’s first-inning homer off lefty Tyler Alexander gave Sheffield a 1-0 lead that lasted for one batter. Jonathan Schoop, the No. 2 hitter in Detroit’s lineup, clubbed a solo homer to deep right-center to get the run back in the bottom of the first.
Miguel Cabrera followed with a double to left and despite moving at the pace of a road grader, he scored on Isaac Paredes’ two-out single to left-center.
The Tigers made it 3-1 in the third inning when Jake Rogers hammered a solo homer to left.
Seattle cut the lead to 3-2 in the top of the fourth when Jake Fraley led off with a single and later came around to score on a soft ground ball from newly-added Mariner Jake Bauers.
Seattle’s defense fell apart in the bottom half of the inning, basically ending Sheffield’s outing with two unearned runs.
Kyle Seager allowed the leadoff runner to reach on a rare throwing error following a nice stop on a hard ground ball. Donovan Walton then botched a routine double play ball that would’ve erased Seager’s mistake. The Tigers took advantage with Willi Castro driving in a run on a sac fly and Robbie Grossman adding an RBI single to push it to 5-2.
“We’ve got to make plays behind him and we certainly didn’t,” Servais said. “You are hoping to turn a double play ball there and keep his pitch count in check. Then you feel good about getting five or six innings from him today. But that wasn’t the case.”
In 10 starts last season, Sheffield was 4-3 with a 3.58 ERA. With the loss vs. Detroit, he’s now 5-5 with a 4.91 ERA in 11 starts this season.
“Last year, I feel like I was way more consistent,” he said. “When I got on a roll, I stayed on a roll. This year, I feel like it’s been more of a roller coaster season for me. It feels like I’ll have a good game and then I’ll have a tough game and then a good game and a tough game. It’s about finding that consistency. It’s the big leagues and I know it’s gonna be tough at times, but I know that I’m fully capable of going out there, giving my all for my team and being a better pitcher than what I’ve shown so far.”
Haniger’s second homer trimmed the lead to two runs. But Detroit picked up two runs in the sixth on a Grossman two-run homer off Anthony Misiewicz and another in the seventh on an RBI triple from Rogers off Yacksel Rios.