The once-surging Mariners have dropped three straight games to fall to 39-40 on the season.
A good starting pitching performance can lift even the worst of teams to victory against teams it shouldn’t realistically beat.
The Philadelphia Phillies limped into Safeco Field with the worst record in all of baseball and on pace to lose more than 100 games this season. And if that happens, it means they’ll still have won more than 50 games. One of those wins came on Tuesday night at Safeco Field.
The Phillies out-pitched, out-hit and out-played the once-surging Mariners, handing Seattle a crisp and decisive 8-2 defeat.
The Mariners have dropped three straight games to fall to 39-40 on the season while the Phillies improved to 25-51.
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It seems implausible that such an awful Phillies team that was 3-16 over the last 19 games could slow down the Mariners’ lineup and beat Seattle on a night when James Paxton pitched. But then again, the Phillies beat Chris Sale and the Red Sox, 1-0, on June 15. That was their one win in a stretch of 14 games.
The Mariners’ loss was a reminder that as well as they have played to get back to .500, the process of getting above that mark and staying there won’t happen with performances like this. They aren’t strong enough to play at an average level and win.
For the third straight game, Seattle was held to just two runs.
“As good as we were going early in the homestand, it has cooled off in a hurry,” manager Scott Servais said.
Phillies starter Aaron Nola delivered a solid outing, pitching seven innings and limiting Seattle to two runs on five hits with four walks and nine strikeouts. Using an effective curveball, Nola kept Seattle hitters off balance and outdueled Mariners starter Paxton, who pitched seven innings and allowed three runs on four hits with three walks and nine strikeouts.
“Not a good ballgame for us tonight,” Servais said. “Nola threw the ball really well. He had the curveball going. We had a couple of chances to put some numbers up against him. In some key at-bats, we didn’t get it done tonight. We didn’t swing the bats very well. Give Nola credit, he threw the ball very well.”
In the search for positives on an otherwise disappointing and frustrating night, Paxton pitched well. He had essentially one shaky inning with some bad luck followed by one very regrettable pitch two innings later. But his fastball velocity touched 98 mph and sat at 95-97 mph. He also had much better command of his breaking ball, a sign that the continued refining of his mechanics is paying off.
“I’m starting to get more comfortable with the adjustments and finding some rhythm with it,” he said.
Seattle grabbed a 2-0 lead in the third inning. With two outs and Jarrod Dyson on first base, Jean Segura jumped on first pitch fastball from Nola, driving it over the wall in right field for his fifth homer of the season.
The Phillies answered in the fifth inning when Paxton had a momentary lapse of command. He gave up an almost-catchable leadoff double — his first hit allowed of the game — to Maikel Franco and then an infield single to Cameron Perkins on a nubbed ground ball to third. Paxton then walked Cameron Rupp to load the bases. The Phillies capitalized on the opportunity, getting sacrifice flies from Ty Kelly and Daniel Nava to tie the score at 2-2.
The Phillies had a chance to take the lead in the inning, but Mitch Haniger threw out Rupp at home when he tried to score from second on a single to end the inning.
The Phillies took the lead two innings later when Franco took advantage of a changeup up in the zone, sending it into the Phillies’ bullpen for a leadoff homer. The solo blast was Franco’s 10th homer of the season.
“We doubled on it,” Paxton said of the pitch. “We missed with the first one and thought he’d be cheating to the fastball after seeing me miss with the changeup. We went back to it and I left it up. Bad pitch.”
Down a run, the Mariners had their opportunities to tie the game or take the lead. They had runners in scoring position in the fifth, sixth and seventh innings and failed to capitalize. The most costly came in the sixth when Seattle had runners on the corners with no outs. But Nola struck out Nelson Cruz for the third time on the night and got Kyle Seager to ground into an inning-ending double play.
“In those situations, we had the right guys up for us and they usually come through for us,” Servais said. “They don’t do it every night. I know Nellie, timing-wise has been off the last few days, kind of in between, late on the fastball and out in front on the breaking ball. And Kyle, a little bit of the same.”
In the seventh, with runners on first and second and two outs, Segura appeared to have a double down the third-base line. But Franco made a diving stop and fired to first to get Segura to end the inning.
The Phillies tacked on an insurance run in the seventh against reliever Tony Zych on an RBI single from Freddy Galvis to make it 4-2.
The game fell apart in the ninth. Closer Edwin Diaz, who hadn’t pitched since June 21, got in the game to pitch the ninth and struggled, giving up four runs on three hits, including a massive two-run homer to Aaron Altherr to turn the game into a rout.
“It got away from us and got sloppy,” Servais said. “Diaz was not sharp. You’ve got to have your edge with you. And you can’t go out and flip a switch.”