An uninspiring 4-1 loss to the Rockies on Saturday night in the sauna that was Coors Field meant a third straight series loss and Seattle’s seventh loss in 10 games.
DENVER — Maybe it’s fatigue and the need for the looming All-Star break. Sure it would be beneficial for the Mariners, who are stumbling and weaving toward the midseason pause in forgettable fashion.
This is easily their most unremarkable stretch of baseball in terms of awareness, execution and competitive games since the early days of April.
An uninspiring 4-1 loss to the Rockies on Saturday night in the sauna that was Coors Field meant a third straight series loss and Seattle’s seventh loss in 10 games. The M’s have lost three straight and are 58-38 with one game left before the break.
The three wins during this 10-game stretch weren’t particularly decisive while six of their seven losses were by three runs or more. The offense is inconsistent. The pitching has been unpredictable. And plays aren’t being made when needed.
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“It’s going to happen,” M’s manager Scott Servais said. “I don’t think anybody is thinking we are going to go through a whole season without having a few rocky stretches, no pun intended, but that’s where we are at right now. We have to come out tomorrow and do more offensively. You have to score runs in this ballpark. You are not going to shut them out or shut them down.”
On a night made for hitters, the Mariners offense managed just five hits, four of them singles, and one run.
Colorado starter Jon Gray carved them up, pitching 71/3 innings, giving up one run on five hits with a walk and six strikeouts.
“He threw the ball really well,” Servais said. “He had a good fastball and he was locating the off-speed pitches to keep us off balance. You come to Coors Field and you only get one run up on the board, you have to give them some credit.”
Seattle was held scoreless until the eighth inning. Their lone run came on a run-scoring double from Chris Herrmann that brought in Ben Gamel from first base. Down 4-1, Nelson Cruz got to pinch hit and singled off the glove of Nolan Arenado to end Gray’s outing. But the Mariners took themselves out of the inning.
With runners on the corners, Dee Gordon hit a soft check-swing one-hopper to third base off reliever Adam Ottavino. Herrmann, who was on third base, took off on contact and then stopped. He was caught in a rundown and eventually tagged out. Jean Segura then struck out looking to end the threat.
“Brain fart,” Herrmann said. “I should have just waited for Arenado to throw the ball to first or wherever he was going to throw it. I hate making baserunning mistakes like that. Who knows? The game could’ve maybe changed a little bit. We could’ve maybe scored a run and had guys on second and third with two outs.”
Pitching in Coors Field is less than ideal for any pitcher, but for someone like Wade LeBlanc, who already is working with a minimal margin for misplacement, the dry air and altitude make it that much more difficult for success.
Facing Colorado for a second straight start, the veteran lefty gutted his way through 42/3 innings, giving up four runs on six hits with two walks and three strikeouts but suffered his first loss as a member of the Mariners.
“It’s frustrating to take this into the All-Star break,” he said. “But you flush it and move on.”
He wasn’t awful, but he wasn’t completely effective.
“It’s not very much fun throwing in a park like this, not for a guy that relies on late movement,” he said. “That kind of gets taken away in the thin air here. It’s not a great place to pitch. If you don’t have your A-plus game, it’s probably going to be a long night.”
In the second inning, LeBlanc gave up a leadoff single to Trevor Story and then left a 1-2 fastball over the middle of the plate to Carlos Gonzalez, who smashed it over the wall in dead center for his 11th homer of the season.
“It didn’t move at all,” LeBlanc said of the pitch. “But it moved a lot after he hit it, really quickly. It was a mistake. And I made a lot of mistakes tonight.”
The 86-mph pitch missed the intended location of low and inside.
“It was probably inner half and down, right where lefties like it,” LeBlanc said. “He’s had some success against me. I’ve struggled with execution against him in the past and it showed up again tonight.”
LeBlanc worked out of trouble in the third and fourth, but he never got out of the fifth. The Mariners’ search for offense cost LeBlanc a run when Ian Desmond hit a deep fly ball to right-center. Ben Gamel, who got the start in center field over the slumping Guillermo Heredia, took a meandering route back on the ball and misplayed it for an RBI triple. It’s a play Heredia makes with ease.
The lost out ended LeBlanc’s evening. Right-hander Matt Festa, who was called up from Class AA Arkansas, got to make his debut with a runner on third and Arenado at the plate. He blooped the first pitch he saw from Festa into center to score Desmond to make it 4-0. Festa allowed another hit in the inning, but didn’t allow any more damage.