And on the 21st day, they rested.
After 20 games in 20 days to start the 2020 season, the Mariners will get a much-needed break Thursday in scenic Houston where they will be remanded to the team hotel and encouraged not to leave that “bubble” for any reason.
“A whole lot of Call of Duty will be played,” Mariners shortstop J.P. Crawford said.
But a day stuck inside a high-level hotel will be welcomed for one of the last teams in MLB to get an off day. Of course, teams like the Cardinals and Marlins, as well as the teams recently scheduled to play them, have had a few more off days — though not planned — than everyone else.
This is the life in the COVID-19 world the players are living in and the fear of an outbreak for a team that hasn’t had any in-season issues. No team wants to be the next Cardinals.
The Mariners seemed poised to head into their day of rest on a high note — a solid victory led by a strong outing by Taijuan Walker for their second series win of the season.
Instead, the bullpen happened … again.
Two of the Mariners’ better-performing relievers of late imploded in the eighth inning. Erik Swanson started an uncontrollable fire and Taylor Williams stoked it instead of stopping it, turning a two-run lead into a 7-4 loss to the Rangers.
With yet another late-innings failure, the Mariners fell to 7-13. To be fair, the bullpen isn’t responsible for all 13 of those losses, it only feels that way for fans.
“Giving young guys opportunities in those spots are really, really valuable, and they will learn from it and will benefit from it down the road,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said. “It was just a little painful tonight when you don’t get the W after I thought we were in control of that ballgame.”
With a 4-2 lead going into the bottom of the eighth, Servais turned to Swanson, who has looked dominant in his previous outing, firing fastballs that touched 97 mph with riding movement and a high spin rate.
Days ago, Swanson, a former starter who averaged 93 mph with his fastball last season, talked about being able to consistently hit 98-99 mph in his next outing.
He did just that on multiple occasions vs. the Rangers. But the idea of commanding the ball to certain areas of the strike zone faded and the control of actually throwing a strike dissipated.
The eighth started off with a quick out as Swanson made Nick Solak look silly, striking him out swinging on four pitches to start the inning. But that was one of two outs he would record.
Swanson got up 0-2 on two fastballs to Derek Dietrich, who was starting his first game since being acquired by the Rangers. Dietrich won the battle, fouling off two 98-mph fastballs and lining a slider into right for a single. Elvis Andrus followed with a double as things started to spiral.
“Give Dietrich some credit, he hung in the at-bat,” Servais said.
A wayward fastball hit pinch-hitter Todd Frazier to load the bases.
It appeared Swanson got Jeff Mathis to hit a pop out to left. But Dylan Moore, who was playing very deep, got a late jump and the ball dropped in for a single that scored a run to cut the lead to 4-3.
“He was playing deep and the ball just kind of landed in no man’s land,” said Crawford, who was actually closer to making the play.
Shin Soo Choo tied the game with a sac fly moments later.
Swanson couldn’t get the third out. He hit Isiah Kiner-Falefa with a pitch to reload the bases and ended his outing that featured 23 pitches and 14 strikes.
“These situations are really important for our guys to go through and learn how to handle it,” Servais said. “Erik Swanson had never been in that spot before — the eighth inning, trying to protect a two-run lead late and on the road. That’s when you find out. That’s how you learn, and he’ll be better for it next time.”
Servais turned to Taylor Williams, who has a team-high three saves and has pitched well in leverage. But Williams couldn’t fix the problems. He uncorked a wild pitch to score the go-ahead run and move the other two runners up a base. Willie Calhoun singled to left field to score two more runs to make it 7-4.
Walker bounced back from a shortened outing, working six innings and allowing just one unearned runs on six hits with a walk and five strikeouts.
“Today coming into this game, I really wanted to get strike one,” Walker said. “Just get ahead, make them put the ball in play and kind of don’t mess with them too much. They’re really patient and I felt like got to 0-2 a lot, but they battled me to 2-2 and got my pitch count up. But I think just being aggressive and going right after them helped me out.”
The Mariners scored all four of their runs in the second inning off Rangers starter Jordan Lyles. Austin Nola hammered a solo homer to center to start the inning and Daniel Vogelbach, who is trying to fight out of prolonged slump and remain on the roster, crushed a mammoth two-run homer to right field two batters later. Kyle Lewis drove in the final run of the inning on a sac fly that scored Tim Lopes.
But the Mariners’ offense went quiet. Lyles recovered to work three scoreless innings, and the Rangers’ bullpen allowed just two hits and a walk over the final four innings.