If the obituary of this unexpectedly successful season for the Mariners is written before the season ends Oct. 3, an annual rite that has usually occurred more often in early- to-mid-August than mid-September, there will be an assortment of reasons for its ultimate demise without a postseason appearance.
From the misguided offseason free-agent rant of an executive that forced his resignation to the rash of injuries, to an offense that was barely anemic on its worst days and inconsistent on its best, there will be no shortage of blame for yet another season — 20 in a row to be exact — without making the playoffs.
But the failures of the Mariners in two critical home series against inferior teams will loom as unwanted memories.
Jarred Kelenic’s massive two-run homer into the second deck of right field gave the Mariners brief hope in the ninth inning of yet another comeback. It wasn’t enough to overcome a three-run, no-out implosion from reliever Anthony Misiewicz in the sixth and a tack-on homer allowed by Erik Swanson in the seventh, which led to a disappointing 5-4 loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks.
The defeat ruined an otherwise perfect Sunday afternoon at T-Mobile Park where a crowd of only 13,551 watched the Mariners lose a three-game series to the worst team in the National League (47-96). A week ago, the Mariners swept Arizona in Phoenix and returned to Seattle three days later just one game back in the wild-card race only to lose a series they needed to win.
“Obviously, a disappointing series,” manager Scott Servais said. “It’s baseball. There are going to be some highs and lows. You ride the wave a little bit.”
If this seems familiar, the Mariners returned to T-Mobile in late August a game back in the wild-card standings and proceeded to lose three of four to Salvador Perez and the Royals.
“You play the game on the field,” Servais said. “It’s not who should win based on records or anything like that. You still have to play a good baseball game and execute, have good at-bats and execute pitches. And when you don’t do that, it doesn’t matter who you’re playing in this league, they can come up and get you.“
The Mariners (77-66) fell to three games back for the second wild-card spot. The Blue Jays improved to 80-63 and moved into a tie with the Red Sox, who lost on a walkoff hit in Chicago to fall to 81-64, for the top wild-card spot. The A’s have also dropped to three back, losing a series to the lowly Rangers.
The Yankees also sit ahead of Seattle in the wild-card race.
All is not lost for the Mariners as they open a huge three-game series against Boston on Monday. It’s their last time to face a team directly ahead of them in the wild-card standings.
“We’re looking forward to the next series,” Servais said. “We can’t do anything about what just happened. It’s over. We have to look forward and see where we’re at and go out and win a game tomorrow.”
Still, this lost series could have lasting repercussions as the number of games remaining is down to 19.
Misiewicz entered the game to begin the sixth inning after starter Yusei Kikuchi gave the Mariners a workable start.
With multiple left-handers scheduled to hit for Arizona, the pocket of hitters fit for the oft-used lefty reliever.
“That’s all predetermined ahead of the time,” Servais said. “Whether it was the fifth or sixth inning, that was going to be Miz’s pocket to go after them in the game based on numbers and matchups. You still have to go execute.”
But he never recorded an out, allowing a single, a double, a two-run double and another RBI single that turned a 1-1 game into a 4-1 deficit.
“Give them credit,” Servais said. “He left some pitches in the middle and they put good swings on him and they were super aggressive against him.”
Kikuchi pitched five innings, allowing one run on six hits with a walk and eight strikeouts. It was certainly an improvement over his previous outing, a 1 2/3-inning dumpster fire in Houston where he couldn’t throw a strike with his fastball and the game was lost in a six-run second inning.
There would be no repeat of those struggles, but Kikuchi wasn’t dominant either. After striking out four of the first six batters he faced, he allowed a leadoff double to Seth Beer to start the third. It eventually led to a run on an RBI single from Josh Van Meter. Arizona loaded the bases with one out in the fourth inning, but Kikuchi worked out of the jam, striking out Henry Ramos and Beer.
“After my outing in Houston and leading up to today, I was thinking about a lot of different things, making a lot of different adjustments as well,” Kikuchi said through interpreter Kevin Ando. “I talked with (Servais) a couple of times, and he had mentioned to me that I didn’t have to necessarily worry too much about the result of today. He told me to just go out, compete and be aggressive. And I think that advice helped a lot. It took a lot of weight off my shoulders.”