The Mariners’ push for a postseason spot has slowed to almost a stop. And with the games remaining in the season dwindling — now just 16 games remaining — losing games to one of the worst teams in the National League isn’t ideal.
What’s more frustrating is that the Mariners had plenty of reasons to feel like they should’ve beaten the lowly Arizona Diamondbacks, who came into the game with the second-worst record in the NL.
The Mariners had basically one bad inning — the first — and hit a plethora of balls hard and few things to show for it in a disappointing 4-3 loss to the D-backs on Friday night at Chase Field in Phoenix.
It was the Mariners’ third consecutive defeat, dropping them to 19-25 and proving that this unexpected position to compete for a playoff spot was more about circumstance than substance.
The Astros were off Friday so they remained at 22-23 – 2½ games ahead of Seattle for second place in the American League West. The Yankees swept a doubleheader against the Orioles to improve to 24-21, leaving the Mariners three games back for the second wild card with the Orioles and Tigers ahead of them at 20-24.
Seattle isn’t out of it. But the scenarios to be in it become less and less possible.
Manager Scott Servais knew his team had hit the ball hard all night but had little to show for it — just three hits and three runs.
But when he was told that his team had put 14 balls into play with exit velocities higher than 94 mph with just three hits resulting from them, he just shook his head.
“I didn’t know it was that many,” he said in a postgame video conference. “I know it was a lot. There’s usually a few more runs on the board when that happens, so I really can’t fault our guys. Some nights baseball is not fair, and tonight was one of those nights. I thought we were right on a lot of pitches, drove some balls very well, just luck was not on our side.”
And later when the interview was wrapping up, Servais asked: “So I get to think about 14 balls over 90 mph all night?”
Uh, no, it was 94 mph.
“Yeah, that’s better,” he deadpanned.
There were actually 15 over 90 mph.
“Gotcha,” he said. “Well I think we’ll wrap this one up with that. We’ll be back at it tomorrow. “
The Mariners got a decent start from left-hander Yusei Kikuchi. And it would have been a solid start and a Mariners win if he could remove a forgettable first inning.
Kikuchi pitched six innings, allowing four runs on six hits with a walk and five strikeouts. Three of those four runs came in a shaky first inning where Kikuchi threw plenty of strikes – 20 of 24 pitches – but they were all hittable strikes and the Diamondbacks were on them.
“I was throwing a lot of strikes but they were kind of catching the middle of the plate a lot,” Kikuchi said through interpreter Kevin Ando on a video call. “I think that was part of the reason why I wasn’t getting the results I wanted.”
Tim Locastro led off with a single and scored on a one-out triple from Christian Walker. A sac fly from Eduardo Escobar made it 2-0. Old Angels friend Kole Calhoun followed with a two-out double and scored on Nick Ahmed’s single to make it 3-0.
The Mariners trimmed the lead to 3-1 in the third on Dylan Moore’s laser of a line drive over the wall in left field. The solo shot was Moore’s seventh homer of the season.
The D-backs picked up their fourth run off Kikuchi in the bottom of the third on a sac fly from Calhoun.
Seattle chipped away at the lead with one run at a time. Jose Marmolejos made it 4-2 in the seventh with an RBI single and Ty France trimmed it to 4-3 in the eighth with a monster solo homer to deep left center.
The Mariners made a series of roster moves before Friday’s game in Phoenix. The most notable was placing shortstop J.P. Crawford on the bereavement list and recalling infielder Donnie Walton from the taxi squad.
“It’s a family situation,” Servais said in a video call before the game. “Somebody very close to him passed away. Wishing him all the best. It’s just a reminder that these players are more than players. They are people. They have families. There’s always things going on in the background, but unfortunately he’ll be out for a few days. I don’t know exactly when he’ll be back.”
About 45 minutes before first pitch, the Mariners placed infielder Shed Long Jr. on the 10-day injured list with a stress fracture in his right shin and recalled right-handed pitcher Brady Lail from the taxi squad. It left the Mariners with two position players available off the bench for Friday.
This likely closes a frustrating season for Long, who played himself out of his everyday job at second base. He posted a .171/.242/.291 slash line with five doubles, three homers, nine RBI, 11 walks and 37 strikeouts in 34 games.
Per an MLB source, Long has been battling this shin issue since the original spring training. It didn’t allow him to put full weight on his right foot – his front of his swing – causing a decrease in stability in his swing. The pain came and went for the past few months but grew worse over the past few weeks.
Long will likely need surgery on the shin and have a rod inserted to provide relief.
The Mariners also made a paper roster move, outrighting Mallex Smith to their minor-league system. That means Smith was placed on waivers and cleared, allowing the Mariners to remove him from the 40-man roster. He had an abysmal season before being optioned to the alternate training site Aug. 18, posting a .133/.170/.178 slash line in 14 games with two doubles and three RBI with two walks and 13 strikeouts.
Editor’s note: The Times declined to send reporter Ryan Divish to Phoenix for this game because of COVID-19 safety concerns.