None of this was normal.
The Mariners played a home game at Oracle Park in San Francisco on Wednesday. They sat in the third base dugout and batted in the bottom of every inning, in a beautiful ballpark that isn’t theirs. They had flown into town the same day of the game, with reliever Kendall Graveman proposing they board the plane in full uniform.
It was weird, in more ways than one.
After the Mariners’ two-game series against the Giants was moved to San Francisco because of poor air quality in the Seattle area, starter Ljay Newsome walked the first man he saw. It was the first walk of the season for the 23-year-old righty, an ominous beginning to an uncharacteristic clunker.
In each of his first three appearances this season, Newsome allowed just one earned run.
In a 9-3 Mariners loss on Wednesday, he surrendered eight hits, five earned runs, two homers and a walk in three unsavory innings.
“I just didn’t have it tonight,” Newsome said.
And it didn’t get easier after Newsome’s exit. In a marathon fourth inning, reliever Erik Swanson — in his first appearance after being activated from the 10-day injured list — coughed up four hits, three runs (two earned) and a walk, all while recording one single out. His ERA sits at an unsightly 17.47.
Giants starter Drew Smyly cruised through three innings before hitting turbulence in the fourth. A Luis Torrens double to left scored Kyle Seager from second, and reliever Caleb Baragar walked back-to-back M’s with the bases loaded to narrow the deficit to 8-3.
In all, Smyly allowed four hits and three runs in 3 2/3 innings — using a lively fastball and an overhead curveball to strike out eight.
The bright spot for the Mariners was reliever Casey Sadler, who didn’t allow a hit and struck out five straight in 2 2/3 scoreless innings.
“I like his stuff,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said. “It’s a good sinking fastball. He really commanded his curveball well tonight. You need to have two pitches working like that against this club.”
The Giants did tack on a run in the seventh, when shortstop Brandon Crawford belted a 92 mph sinker off Brandon Brennan — who was activated from the 45-day IL on Tuesday — for a solo homer to left-center to extend the lead to 9-3. Crawford went 3 for 5 with a homer, two doubles, two runs and an RBI.
And, despite Kyle Lewis’ two singles, the Mariners managed just six hits and left 11 on base, while striking out a whopping 17 times.
All things considered, the Mariners are 0-1 at their home away from home.
Air quality concerns
Servais was asked before Wednesday’s game when it became clear it would not be possible to play in Seattle on Tuesday.
“I live out east and when I was driving over the (Interstate) 90 bridge and I got closer to downtown I quickly realized this might be worse than it was the day before,” he said. “So getting in the ballpark and talking to a few people there, and obviously MLB was already involved. I had a couple conversations with Gabe Kapler, the Giants’ manager, and we figured something was going to happen — whether we stayed in Seattle or headed back over here. It was just a matter of getting the higher-ups on board and making a decision of what was best to get these games in.”
After the decision was made to shift the two-game series to Oracle Park in San Francisco on Wednesday and Thursday, the Mariners flew out of Boeing Field at 10 a.m. on Wednesday morning. Servais said the last time he could recall flying on the day of a game was while he was a player with the Cubs in the mid-90s.
Even so, their hasty arrival won’t double as an excuse.
“We have to be able to adjust,” Servais said. “We knew this was going to be a crazy season. I think for the most part we’ve done a really good job of that — understanding it is what it is, it doesn’t do any good to complain about the situation or feel down or we’re not lucky and that stuff. You just roll with the punches. You get ready to play a ballgame, and that’s what we’ll do here in a few hours.”
Magill undergoes shoulder surgery
Mariners reliever Matt Magill had an arthroscopic debridement surgery on his right shoulder on Tuesday, the team announced. The 30-year-old righty is expected to be recovered in time for the beginning of 2021 spring training.
Magill was originally placed on the 10-day injured list with a right shoulder strain on Aug. 28, and was transferred to the 45-day IL on Aug. 30. He did not allow a run in his first eight relief appearances this season, striking out nine while limiting opponents to an .077 batting average against in eight scoreless innings. He finished the season with a 6.1 ERA (7 ER, 10.1 IP) with six walks and 11 strikeouts in 11 appearances.
“He really did kind of battle through it all year,” Servais said. “Even from the original spring training, he just didn’t quite look right. The velocity wasn’t the same. He kind of took a different approach and was having some success with it — as far as leaning heavily on the breaking balls, the curveball and the slider, without having the typical velocity that we saw out of him last year. Last year there was games he was up to 95, 96 mph. This year it was probably sitting in the 90-92 range for the most part.
“I give him a ton of credit for trying to battle through it. It got to the point there a few weeks ago where it just wasn’t working.”
Crawford returns to lineup
The Mariners reinstated shortstop J.P. Crawford from the bereavement list on Wednesday and optioned infielder Donovan Walton to the alternate site.
The 25-year-old Crawford was placed on the bereavement list last Friday. In 41 games this season, he’s batting .239 with 27 runs scored, 10 extra-base hits, 15 RBI and five stolen bases. His three defensive runs saved, per FanGraphs, are tied for second among American League shortstops behind only Houston’s Carlos Correa (5).