Perhaps it would’ve been a fitting and necessary reminder of just how tenuous the balance between surprising success and abject failure remains for the current version of the Mariners.
Though they would like to forget, it wasn’t that long ago — May 5 and May 18 — that they were no-hit, at home, twice in the span of two weeks. They were bottoming out, where simply getting hits let alone scoring runs felt like the impossible.
So being held hitless or having a perfect game thrown against them to round out what has been highly-successful homestand would’ve been a cold slap of reality to the broad smiles they’ve been wearing during a stretch where they’d won eight of nine games, including five in a row.
They aren’t quite an offensive juggernaut just yet as evidenced by Wednesday afternoon’s 5-2 loss to the Rockies.
For nearly six innings, German Marquez kept the Mariners hitless and off the bases, and that old feeling of dread returned to T-Mobile Park, giving the 11,141 fans the apprehension that their team might just be the first in Major League Baseball’s modern era to be no-hit three times.
But with two outs in the sixth inning and Seattle trailing 3-0, Taylor Trammell belted a solo home run to break up Marquez’s bid for perfection.
The Mariners still lost to a Rockies team that has been abysmal on the road this season — just 6-28 in games away from Coors Field.
Trammell’s homer broke a string of 15 scoreless innings by Marquez over his last three outings. When J.P. Crawford followed with a single, it seemed like the Mariners might find a way to pull out another come-from-behind win.
Marquez snuffed out those hopes quickly. He got Mitch Haniger to hit a soft ground ball back to the mound for the final out of the frame and then worked 1-2-3 innings in the seventh and eighth. The eight innings pitched were a season high for Marquez. He also struck out seven with no walks.
“We just didn’t get much going against Marquez at all,” manager Scott Servais said. “He’s been really good this year. He certainly had all four pitches working and he showed why he carries the load he does. This guy pitches a lot of innings in a tough ballpark in Colorado. We knew we were going to have our hands full today offensively, and he did shut us down.”
While their five-game winning streak came to an end, the Mariners (39-37) finished the nine-game homestand with a 7-2 record.
“We’ve been riding quite a wave and we’ve just been playing great baseball,” Servais said. “I can’t say enough how happy I am with how we’re playing and the homestand.”
The Mariners will now have Thursday off in Chicago before opening up a three-game series vs. the White Sox, the leaders of the American League Central and a legitimate World Series contender.
“I do feel very good about where we’re at as a ballclub, understanding there’s still room for growth,” Servais said. “You look at our homestand, we had a number of different players step up with big hits and quality at-bats, but there is still room to do more. That’s what we’re going to need to do on the road trip. We’ve got to be more consistent offensively. And that’s everybody just chipping in. The White Sox have a good club. They are very talented.”
Seattle’s comeback hopes took a serious gutpunch when Trevor Story smashed his second homer of the game, belting a two-run blast off rookie right-hander Vinny Nittoli, who was making his MLB debut.
Down 5-1, Seattle scratched out a run in the ninth when Crawford doubled, advanced to third on pitcher indifference and scored on Kyle Seager’s bunt single against the shift.
Facing a lineup with seven right-handed hitters, Justus Sheffield couldn’t give the Mariners five complete innings. His final line: 4 1/3 innings pitched, three runs allowed on four hits with three walks and five strikeouts. He didn’t get rocked or give up a ton of runs or hits. He just didn’t throw as many quality strikes as needed and lacked efficiency to keep his pitch count under control.
Of his 87 pitches, he threw 50 strikes, with 11 swings and misses, including seven on his slider.
But of the 20 batters he faced, Sheffield threw first-pitch strikes to just eight of them. He also had three-ball counts on 15 of those batters. His misses with the sinker were often noncompetitive misses — meaning they were so far out of the strike zone, a hitter wouldn’t consider swinging at them.
“That for me screams it is a mechanical issue,” Servais said. “His timing and his arm is not in that consistent spot all the time on all the pitches. That’s where you see the big misses from him.”
Sheffield believes it’s fixable.
“I’m just not staying closed all the way through,” he said. “And if I’m throwing a two-seam, it is already going to move to the arm side. You’ve got to be able to stay on those pitches as long as possible to get that true movement that you want. When I’m flying open, that’s when it’s nowhere near where I want it to be.”
After a quick 1-2-3 first inning, Sheffield walked Charlie Blackmon to start the second inning. With one out, he fell behind in the count to Brendan Rodgers. Sheffield’s 3-1 fastball was over the center of the plate, and Rodgers’ high fly ball just got over the wall in deep left-center out of the reach of a leaping Trammell for a 2-0 lead.
Sheffield came back to strike out the next two batters and worked a 1-2-3 third inning. But his start got really sidetracked in the fourth inning.
He hung an 0-1 slider to Story that turned into a leadoff solo homer. Another walk to Blackmon and a double to deep center from C.J. Cron put Sheffield in more trouble. But a hard line drive down the third base line off the bat of Rodgers was caught by Seager and Chris Owings’ fly ball to right wasn’t deep enough for Blackmon to tag up.
Sheffield ended the inning with a strikeout of Joshua Fuentes that took a pitch-count sapping 14 pitches.
He started the fifth inning and got a quick first out on a pop up in foul territory. But it was the only out Sheffield recorded. He walked Raimel Tapia and allowed a single to Yonathan Daza to end his outing.
Will Vest delivered his best relief outing since coming off COVID-19 quarantine. He struck out Story and got Blackmon to ground out to third to end the fifth and worked a 1-2-3 sixth.