In his first MLB start this season, Christian Bergman didn't allow a run over seven innings. But Bartolo Colon matched him, and the four unearned runs allowed by the bullpen sank the Mariners in their series finale against Texas.
So what’s worse:
Being shut out and shut down by the oldest pitcher in baseball for basically eight innings on your way to scoring one run?
Or taking your very real rally hopes of being down just one run in your final at-bat and crushing them under the weight of your own mistakes?
Well, if you’re the Mariners, it doesn’t matter what’s worse, because you did both in a disappointing 5-1 loss to the Rangers on a gorgeous Wednesday afternoon at Safeco Field.
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“Tough ballgame today, understanding there probably wasn’t going to be a bunch of runs scored with where we were at as a club physically,” manager Scott Servais said. “And then we had a couple of letdowns there in the ninth inning mentally. We’re playing good baseball. But that ninth inning got away from us. We’re still playing good ball and we’ll get back after it this weekend.”
Seattle fell to 24-18 and opens a four-game series vs. the Detroit Tigers on Thursday night.
Bartolo Colon, the seemingly ageless and perpetually rotund wonder who turns 45 in seven days, held the Mariners scoreless for 72/3 innings, allowing just four hits with no walks and e strikeouts. It was the longest start by any Rangers pitcher this season.
And Colon probably could have went the full eight if Rangers manager Jeff Banister let him.
“He was at his best today,” Banister said. “I thought the key for him was he varied his speeds with his fastball extremely well. Primarily dissecting the strike zone with his fastball.”
The Mariners had just two balls in play — both outs — register more than 100 mph on MLB Statcast’s exit velocity measures. One of those was a hard ground ball back to the mound by Jean Segura that struck Colon in his ample tummy. He found the ball, fired to first and even laughed about it. Ben Gamel had two of the four hits — a broken bat blooper and a fly-ball double to left.
Colon improved to 2-1 with a 2.82 ERA on the season. In his lengthy career, he’s 14-1 with a 1.97 ERA in 16 starts at Safeco Field. It the 45th time in his career that he’s thrown at least seven scoreless innings in a start.
“It’s incredible,” Kyle Seager said. “He went out there and did it again today. It’s unbelievable. He’s not tricking you. You know exactly what you are going to get and he just goes out there and executes and gets the job done.”
Still after doing nothing against Colon for the first eight innings, the Mariners went into the ninth inning trailing just 1-0. Could they respond with another late-inning comeback win for the second straight game?
No, because they made a pair of costly mistakes that turned a 1-0 deficit into 5-0 impossibility.
With two outs and runners on first and second, Ryon Healy mishandled a routine ground ball from Rougned Odor that should have ended the inning.
Lefty Marc Rzepczynski, who had struggled this season, appeared to have ended the inning a second time when he struck out Ronald Guzman swinging with a nasty breaking ball. However, a mix-up on the pitch signals had catcher David Freitas thinking it was a fastball.
The ball bounced off his glove and to the backstop, allowing a run to score. Freitas then made the un-wise decision of trying to throw to first to get Guzman. It allowed Isiah Kiner-Falefa, who was on second to score on the play. The 1-0 deficit became 3-0 and the Mariners were done.
“I threw a slider, he was thinking fastball,” Rzepczynski said of the passed ball. “I will just say that. I’m not going to dip into more than that.”
Rzepczynski had three strikeouts, an intentional walk and a routine ground ball and allowed three unearned runs.
“Rzep has been struggling and we are trying to get him back on track,” Servais said. “It was a good opportunity for him. He went right after them. It’s a definite good sign.”
Dan Altavilla replaced Rzepczynski and walked the next two batters to force in a run. Another infield single on a play that should’ve been made pushed the score to 5-0. When the Mariners finally got the final out of the inning, the remaining lunch crowd of 20,629 cheered in mocking celebration.
The failure to muster anything against Colon and the calamitous ninth inning ruined a brilliant spot start from veteran right-hander Christian Bergman, called up from Class AAA Tacoma to take the ball for this one game.
Bergman pitched seven shutout innings, giving up two hits with no walks and five strikeouts. He didn’t allow a hit through the first 42/3 innings and needed just 90 pitches in the outing.
“I just wanted to get in and out of at-bats as quickly as possible,” Bergman said. “Rhythm was good and I was locating the ball well. I know they are an aggressive team and they like to swing so I knew my offspeed (pitches) had to be there and I relied on that.”
It was just the fifth time this season that a Mariners starter had pitched seven complete innings. James Paxton and Mike Leake had each done it twice.
The Rangers took a 1-0 lead in the eighth inning against the Mariners bullpen. James Pazos gave up a leadoff single to Kiner-Falefa and Odor reached on a perfectly pushed bunt past Pazos toward second base. Pazos came back to strike out Ronald Guzman before being lifted for right-hander Nick Vincent.
A rested Vincent, unavailable on Tuesday night, struck out pinch-hitter Robinson Chirinos but gave up a two-out double to Delino Deshields that scored Kiner-Falefa.
The Mariners only run came in the ninth inning when Kyle Seager smashed his eight homer of the season — a solo blast off Keone Kela — to avoid being shut out.