OAKLAND, Calif. — Even if Luis Castillo’s somewhat odd and unproductive struggles against the Oakland Athletics, or what’s left of them, which is a few veterans playing out the string and most of the Triple-A Las Vegas Aviators, hadn’t repeated themselves on Tuesday night, victory would have still been difficult if not unlikely for the Mariners.
Even if Castillo didn’t implode during an interminable fifth inning that featured him being one strike away from five scoreless innings and then giving up four runs and never getting the third out, this glaring fact remains — the Mariners scored one run and tallied one hit — an infield single from Carlos Santana over nine innings.
That just doesn’t cut it in baseball at any level.
Seattle’s 4-1 loss to the A’s on Tuesday night in front of an announced crowd of 4,251, but realistically about 2,000 fans, most of them there to see the Mariners, was many things — perplexing, disappointing, embarrassing and frustrating.
Those emotions could be felt in the controlled displeasure of manager Scott Servais’ normally lengthy opening statement following the game.
“Obviously not our best effort tonight,” he said flatly. “I’ll take any questions.”
Servais rarely calls out his players as a group or individually. He prefers to keep criticism behind the closed doors of the clubhouse. There have been occasions where he’s been biting in his critiques.
“Whenever you come out and only get one hit in the game, it’s frustrating,” said Ty France “It’s baseball, and that’s a part of it. And it’s not the fun part of it, but it is part of it. The best thing we could do is just come back tomorrow and try and repeat what we did the last game in Anaheim.”
A few more losses like that and more will come.
“We haven’t had a good road trip,” Servais said. “We swung the bats pretty well yesterday, and I thought we were ready to get out of it.”
Instead, that team that scored nine runs on Sunday, scored one run on Sam Haggerty’s bases-loaded walk in the second inning where Santana led off with a single to shortstop.
“When you don’t hit, it looks like you are not trying,” Servais said. “You’ve got to find a way to create some opportunities. We haven’t played great baseball on this trip. We are capable of playing great baseball. We’ve done that for much of the season.”
France couldn’t argue with that assessment.
“I wouldn’t say consistently,” he said. “But we show games where we come out and win 9-1, so obviously we’re very capable of it. We just need to do it more consistently.”
But this postseason berth that the Mariners have worked so hard to get in position to earn isn’t going to be handed to them.
“We’re banged up and everybody knows it,” Servais said. “But the rest of the league doesn’t care. We’re on game 147 and guys are dragging a little bit and that’s part of it. But I just didn’t think we were on it tonight.”
The opposing teams won’t make it easy, regardless of record. The A’s have players trying to prove they are capable of playing at the MLB level.
“There’s just nothing for them to lose,” France said. “There’s way more for us to lose. They’re coming out and playing good baseball. We have to come out and play our best baseball, otherwise, we’re gonna get beat.”
Oakland starter J.P. Sears seemed to be on the ropes of being forced out of the game in that second inning where he threw a total of 37 pitches — 17 for balls.
Following Santana’s single, J.P. Crawford reached on a fielding error to put runners on first and second with no outs. Sears came back to strike out Dylan Moore swinging and Abraham Toro looking. But Curt Casali worked a walk to load the bases and Haggerty worked his run-scoring walk despite falling behind 1-2 in the count.
The Mariners were poised for a big inning with Julio Rodriguez coming to the plate. But Rodriguez, who had missed the last few games with back issues, flew out to center on the first pitch of his at-bat.
Sears would allow just one more base runner over the next three innings.
“We had their starter on the ropes in the second inning and we let him wiggle off, only getting the one run,” Servais said. “Credit to him, he hung in there and ends up going five innings.”
Castillo cruised through the first four innings, allowing two base runners in the third inning. But in the fifth, with a runner on first, he issued a two-out walk to No. 9 hitter Nick Allen, bringing diminutive leadoff hitter Tony Kemp to the plate.
“I thought Castillo’s stuff was good, but it was the walk before the homer,” Servais said. “The walk at the wrong time can really hurt you.”
Castillo got up quickly 0-2 on Kemp, but left a changeup in the middle of the plate that was turned into a three-run homer to right field.
“So my intention was for it to be low and away that way I get a swing and miss,” Castillo said through interpreter Freddy Llanos. “But unfortunately, it was right in the middle and he was able to capitalize on it.”
The A’s tacked on another run on back-to-back doubles from Vimael Machin and Sean Murphy. When Castillo walked Seth Brown, his night was over. Matt Brash entered and struck out Dermis Garcia to finish the inning.
In two starts vs. Oakland with Seattle — both at the Coliseum — Castillo is 0-2 with eight runs allowed on 14 hits in 9 2/3 innings combined with three walks and nine strikeouts.