Even if they were somehow able to keep Mike Trout from hitting another home run against them, the Mariners have still allowed him to almost single-handedly win the five-game series.
Even if they were actually able to generate more than a random hit with runners in scoring position to score at least four runs or more — their seemingly magic number to even hope for victory — it won’t mean this broken offense has been fixed by a duct-tape performance.
Even if the Mariners were somehow able to do those two things and pull out a victory Sunday, this homestand will still be considered an abysmal failure with consequences coming in the days ahead.
It’s not just that the Mariners got swept by the Angels in Saturday’s split doubleheader at T-Mobile Park, which was bad in so many ways, including sinking them to seven games back of the third wild-card spot with a 29-38 record that’s only better than three teams in the American League.
It’s how they lost those two games: barely showing a pulse on offense, allowing Trout to torment them again and playing nothing like they had less than 24 hours before in a win.
Mariners manager Scott Servais said after Friday night’s win that he was looking forward to the doubleheader, which would mean three games in a 24-hour span, believing it would be a good test for his team.
“I don’t think we passed the test,” he said with a depressed sarcasm. “I was looking forward today. It’s a lot of baseball. With the split doubleheaders, you know they’re on the schedule, with the way it was laid out this year. It’s an opportunity from a player’s perspective to go in and get the ball rolling, have a good day and it didn’t happen.”
Instead, it was 19 frustrating innings highlighting the dilapidated roster and lack of production.
“There’s no way to sugarcoat it,” Servais said. “We did not have a good day today.”
Only a masochistic fan or a Mariners manager might try to analyze which of Saturday’s defeats was actually worse.
Was it the 4-2, extra-innings loss in the afternoon when, after holding Trout hitless with three strikeouts, he was able to get a pitch to handle in the 10th inning with two outs and only a runner on third base? Of course, Trout crushed a two-run homer off Diego Castillo to dead center that proved to be the difference.
Or was it the listless 3-0 loss in the nightcap where Trout’s solo homer in the third inning would’ve been enough run support since minor-league call-up Jose Suarez, the extra player added for the doubleheader, and two relievers held the Mariners scoreless?
Would you prefer running out of gas or a flat tire during rush hour on Interstate-5?
“Very, very disappointing, I guess if you want to put that way,” Servais said of his tone. “Distraught, frustrated. We can put all kinds of adjectives on it’s not gonna make things any better.”
The other adjectives might not be suitable for print.
Trout’s performance and his dominance of the Mariners over this series and his brilliant career can’t be overlooked.
With his two homers on the day and four in the series, he has hit 51 homers in 171 games against the Mariners since debuting in 2011. Only Rafael Palmeiro, who has 52 homers against Seattle, has hit more. The two homers Saturday give Trout 32 homers at T-Mobile Park — the most of any opposing player. He’s also passed several former Mariners, including Ken Griffey Jr. and Mike Cameron on that homers list.
His game-winning homer in the opener will be the most talked about.
With a runner on third and two outs in the top of the 10th, Servais elected to let Diego Castillo pitch to Trout.
“It’s a tough decision,” Servais said. “Diego has been our best relief pitcher here probably in the last 10 or 12 outings. I don’t think he’s been scored upon and has thrown the ball great. I went with Diego and it didn’t work out.”
No, it didn’t.
Castillo, whose best pitch is his slider, threw three sinkers to Trout. The third one on 1-1 count was just below the strike zone on the outer half of the plate. You cannot throw Trout anything low that he might hit because he won’t just hit it, he’ll crush it.
Trout couldn’t say, “thank you” while hitting his 19th homer of the season, but he had to be thinking it.
“Again, I went with our hottest pitcher, our best pitcher, so to speak, and it’s Mike Trout,” Servais said. “He certainly got us a bunch in the past. It’s a tough decision. Last year’s MVP is in the on-deck circle, so that weighs into the decision as well and where you want to go there. From the numbers standpoint, as crazy it sounds, you like the right-hander against Trout versus the right-hander against Ohtani.”
A glance at the numbers shows that right-handed hitters had a .203/.262/.271 slash line with five walks and 23 strikeouts in 65 plate appearances vs. Castillo while lefty hitters had a .310/.394/.345 slash line with four walks and five strikeouts against Castillo in 33 plate appearances.
Ohtani has a career .272/.363/.536 slash line with 79 homers and 209 RBI in 1,276 plate appearances vs. right-handed pitching. Maybe intentionally walking both to get left-handed hitting Jared Walsh might have been an option.
“I was missing pitches all day,” Trout said. “I finally got one to put the ball on the barrel.”
He wasn’t certain whether he would get intentionally walked.
“Those are decisions you have to make,” Servais said. “I get paid to make those decisions. I need to be right more than I’m wrong. Today, give him credit. He hit the ball out of the ballpark. He just didn’t get a hit.”
Servais hoped his team would bounce back in the three hours before the next game. It didn’t.
Normally a key set-up man, reliever Penn Murfee started in the nightcap of the doubleheader as an opener with veteran lefty Tommy Milone, whose minor-league contract was selected in between games, was scheduled to pitch after him in the bulk role.
Murfee did his job, posting two scoreless innings. Milone, who was signed to a minor-league deal late in spring training and in his second stint with the Mariners, was solid. He pitched four innings, allowing just one run on two hits with a no walks and two strikeouts.
The one run and both hits allowed of course came off the bat of Trout.
With a 2-2 count in the third inning of a 0-0 game, Milone threw a changeup about four inches off the outside corner of the plate, hoping to get Trout to chase at it and hit a weak groundball or even swing and miss. Instead, Trout stayed on the pitch like he knew it was coming, extending his arms and muscling the ball over the wall in center field for his second homer of the day and fourth of this series.
Down 1-0, Servais turned to veteran reliever Sergio Romo to pitch the seventh inning with the Mariners still down 1-0. Romo gave up a single to Luis Rengifo and served up a two-run dinger to pinch-hitter Jared Walsh.
Down three runs, the Mariners were done. They were shut out for the ninth time this season. They are 3-28 when scoring three runs or fewer.
“You come in here with expectations of, if we should pitch well, we should have a shot to win both games, which we did,” Servais said. “We just didn’t do anything offensively.”