As sunshine made an unexpected appearance on an otherwise mostly cloudy Father’s Day, a large crowd of 39,052 fans at T-Mobile Park, largely disappointed by what they’d been watching, was briefly energized by a hint of warmer, if not better, days ahead for them and the baseball team.
Following another abysmal, and not altogether surprising, offensive performance where they couldn’t muster a solitary run, let alone two or three, and yet another highlight for the Mike Trout for American League MVP campaign, the Mariners closed out a miserable homestand by getting shut out for the second straight game in a 4-0 loss to the Los Angeles Angels.
“Not the Father’s Day, nor the homestand, we were looking for. I guess the best way to put it was it rains it pours,” manager Scott Servais said with a beleaguered tone. “We’re in a slump right now, we’ve not played good baseball, for a number of different reasons. Not a whole lot to say about this one. Great crowd today. A lot of people out here, the sun was finally out. And unfortunately, we did not take advantage of anything.”
A healthy amount of deserved boos initially rained down on the Mariners when Adam Frazier struck out to end the game. Those likely won’t be the last or the loudest in the months ahead.
The booing was short-lived as fans quickly turned their attention to the exits in the search of something else to do with their Sunday. That feeling of interest elsewhere also won’t fade.
Summer will officially arrive in two days even if it felt like spring was skipped this year.
Given the disappointing and underachieving start to this season filled with expectations, and what has transpired on an 11-game homestand where they finished 3-8, the current trend of lackluster performances and the lingering absence of key players, it seems there will be another summer of baseball irrelevance in Seattle.
The Mariners are now 29-39 on the season and going nowhere slowly. They lost four of five games to the Angels, who recently went on a 2-17 stretch that led to the firing of manager Joe Maddon.
They’ve stopped saying it’s early.
But is it too late?
“It’s really frustrating,” shortstop J.P. Crawford said. “We had a big series right there, and we could have turned the tide a little bit. Instead, we dug ourselves a bigger hole to get out of. We’ve got to really flip the switch … now.”
Now 10 games below .500 and eight games back of the third wild-card spot with five teams ahead of them, only the Tigers (26-40), Royals (23-42) and A’s (23-45) have worse records that the Mariners in the American League.
The five-game series vs. the Angels started a stretch of 18 straight games vs. teams that also had losing records. It was supposed to be a time when the Mariners could build off their previous 6-3 road trip that featured series wins over Baltimore, Texas and Houston and get healthy against teams that they feel they should beat.
But those teams, and with good reason, feel the same about Seattle.
For the Mariners to even finish .500 at 81-81 on the season, they need to go 52-42 the rest of the season. They’ve never been more than five games over this season and haven’t been over .500 since May 2.
“You have to grind through it, this is baseball,” Servais said. “Throughout the course of a long season, you’re gonna have ups and downs, you’re gonna have slumps, you’re gonna have hot streaks. We just got beat four out of five by a team that had lost 14 in a row not too long ago. So it does turn. It flips. But that being said, it has to come from within our clubhouse.”
When the flashing lights and buzzing sounds of a fire alarm went off in the sixth inning at T-Mobile Park, delaying the game for more than five minutes, the easy metaphor to purvey on social media was it signaled the season is sinking.
But getting shut out in back-to-back games by a collection of pitchers, who as a whole are borderline big-leaguers, is a sign the Mariners might have already hit bottom.
With no game Monday and an afternoon flight to Oakland, there is a growing belief that the embarrassing failures of this homestand are the tipping point to force changes.
But what changes?
The Mariners held a meeting before the game to allow players to air some opinions or thoughts about their struggles and what needs to be done. But those meetings are meaningless without action or results.
“It’s a do-good business, a do-good league,” Servais said. “If you do good, everybody sticks around and is happy. If not, then you look to make changes.”
Would Mariners chairman John Stanton fire general manager Jerry Dipoto, who constructed this team with promises of adding impact players and an expectation of the postseason? Would Dipoto sacrifice Servais, his longtime friend and colleague, and fire him in the hopes that a different voice would somehow mend a broken roster filled with under-performers while also appeasing an angry fanbase pointing to the manager as the one to blame?
Both Dipoto and Servais received multi-year extensions last season, meaning they are under contract for this season, the 2023 season and supposedly have an option with a healthy buyout for 2024. Traditionally, the Mariners only pay players who aren’t with the organization.
Seattle’s ownership group has been anything but reactionary when it comes to employment termination. It would mean the weight of failed expectations would overpower all the reasons why Stanton, who sat in his front-row seat watching Sunday’s mess, approved those extensions late last season.
The Mariners can’t make Mitch Haniger and Kyle Lewis heal faster, or make Jesse Winker and Adam Frazier suddenly find their old form or turn Abraham Toro and Dylan Moore into something they can’t be.
“There’s no quick fix, there’s no magic pill or potion or anything like that you can throw on it,” Servais said. “There’s no rah-rah speech that’s going to work.”
Like his fellow starters on this homestand, Logan Gilbert gave his team a start good enough to win, going six innings and allowing two runs on four hits with no walks and six strikeouts. It was his seventh consecutive quality start (six-plus innings pitched, three runs or fewer allowed). Unfortunately, a perfect effort wouldn’t have been enough.
In the fourth inning, Gilbert gave up a single to Taylor Ward and then battled Trout. A 3-2 fastball that was supposed to be at the top of the zone, stayed in the middle of the plate. Trout turned it into a two-run homer to right-center.
It was Trout’s fifth homer of the series and 52nd of his career against Seattle, though it feels like more. It ties with him with Rafael Palmeiro for the franchise record of most homers by an opposing player.
That was more than enough run support. But the Angels tacked on two more runs late in the game. Meanwhile, lefty Kenny Rosenberg, who came into the game with a 7.50 ERA and relievers Jose Quijada, Andrew Wantz, Aaron Loup, Ryan Tepera and Raisel Iglesias combined to hold the Mariners scoreless in a game for the 10th time this season.
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