Instead of beating up on the lowly Padres in San Diego, the Mariners instead squandered a prime opportunity to make up ground in their chase for the playoffs.
SAN DIEGO — This series was supposed to give the Mariners a chance to pick up a pair of wins over a bad team and gain a little ground, or at least keep pace, in the race for the second spot in the American League wild card.
That didn’t happen.
The four-game series starting Thursday against Oakland was supposed to be a chance for the Mariners to significantly narrow the gap against the A’s, the team they are trailing for that elusive playoff spot.
That doesn’t seem like it will happen.
Given what’s transpired the past two days at Petco Park, where Seattle was swept in the two-game series by the San Diego Padres — a team with 83 losses — there is little reason to believe the Mariners can somehow slow or shift their current fortunes. It’s a trajectory trending toward failure and another missed postseason.
The two-game set vs. the Padres was that bad. The word putrid comes to mind.
After at least looking competent in a one-run loss on Tuesday, the Mariners slogged their way through a noncompetitive 8-3 defeat on an otherwise gorgeous Wednesday afternoon.
“It’s a shame,” said Nelson Cruz. “We should win these games.”
The word disappointing was shrugged off by manager Scott Servais, who couldn’t find another word to describe his team’s showing.
“Disappointing might be an understatement,” Servais said. “We just didn’t play good baseball here at all. Coming off a weekend where we really competed well and were right in the games against Arizona, a first-place club, we just came in here and didn’t play well.”
The inner part of Servais wanted to lash out a team comprised largely of veterans that plays with maddening inconsistency and often times frustrating carelessness. It’s apparent in their at-bats and on the bases. It surfaces in the field and on the mound. The back-and-forth results like getting swept at home by Toronto and picking up a sweep in Houston further confound him. But the professional side of Servais wouldn’t allow for such an outburst. He wasn’t looking for a sound byte. He wants success.
“It’s been that way throughout the year,” he said. “Right when you think you are going to take a step forward, we find a way to take a couple of steps back. We are where we are. And we are going to Oakland for a big series there.”
The Mariners got some help from the Astros, who defeated the A’s on a walk-off homer from Tyler White earlier in the day. It meant the A’s lead over the Mariners remained at 5 1/2 games instead of growing.
With 29 games left on the season, and seven vs. the A’s, the wild card possibilities get pretty complicated if Seattle doesn’t win at least three of these games.
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Which version of the Mariners will show up at the Oakland Coliseum?
“We know what’s ahead,” Cruz said. “We have to go there and take care of business.”
Starter Erasmo Ramirez gave the Mariners an awful outing, basically ending their chances at victory by the third inning. And the Mariners offense, which is supposedly capable of scoring runs in bunches, mustered one run against light-tossing lefty Joey Lucchesi and a couple meaningless runs late against the Padres bullpen. The Mariners were held to four runs over 18 innings by two rookie starters and a pieced-together bullpen. That’s not exactly ideal or inspiring.
Much of the blame could fall on Ramirez, who had pitched relatively well in his previous three outings since coming off the disabled list. But his command and efficiency with his sinker was nonexistent.
“The execution of the pitches was not that good,” he said. “And it shows the hitter that they have to jump on the pitches early as they can, and they did. No matter what kind of pitch I threw, they were swinging and had good contact.
The Mariners gave him a 1-0 lead in the top of the first on Robinson Cano’s RBI single. But Ramirez gave the run back and more, allowing two runs in the first on a run-scoring single from Eric Hosmer and a sacrifice fly from Hunter Renfroe. The Padres picked up another run in the second on Manuel Margot’s solo homer to left. San Diego broke the game open in the third. All nine players came to the plate, six of them notched hits and four runs scored. Renfroe smashed a three-run homer into the upper deck of left field.
“It came in the wrong moment,” Ramirez said of the changeup down the middle on a 1-2 count. “I was throwing strikes, but not quality strikes. A lot of hard contact … a lot of stuff can happen and nothing good today.”
Ramirez didn’t return for the fourth inning. He allowed seven runs on nine hits with a walk and two strikeouts.
“His stuff was really flat today,” Servais said. “He struggled to put guys away. The Renfroe three-run homer on the changeup. He didn’t execute the pitch That was a big, big point in the game.”
Ramirez’s replacement, Roenis Elias, pitched reasonably well in five innings of mop-up duty, allowing one run on four hits with two walks and three strikeouts. It allowed Servais not to burn another reliever in a game that was lost early, giving him a rested bullpen for Oakland.
“He did a tremendous job,” Servais said. “That’s a tough job when you are the long guy to go out there and keep battling and fighting. Hopefully that helps us over the weekend.”
While the Mariners once overcame a 12-2 deficit in this park, there were no such miracles. Lucchesi pitched 6 2/3 innings, allowing the one run on six hits with two walks and nine strikeouts — including three of Kyle Seager.
“You get down 7-1, it’s tough to fight back from that,” Servais said.
Perhaps more impressive was that Lucchesi was struck in the groin and protective cup by a line drive off the bat of Ryon Healy in the fourth inning and remained in the game, striking out the next five batters he faced.
The Mariners other two runs came in the eight inning on an RBI single from Nelson Cruz and an RBI double from Seager. But it mattered little.