With the Yankees' 5-1 win over the A’s in Oakland, the Mariners remain 5 1/2 games back for the second American League wild card.
Given what transpired in the clubhouse on Tuesday afternoon, it would be easy to use some snarky comment or reference about the Mariners showing more fight pregame than in their lackluster 5-3 loss to the worst team in baseball — the Baltimore Orioles.
The pregame incident that sources said happened between Dee Gordon and Jean Segura and was broken up by multiple players and had a soap opera feel, perfect for social media and narratives. Did it affect the Mariners?
“I thought our guys were ready to play,” manager Scott Servais said. “Quite frankly, I thought we’d really come out and get after it early.”
Tiffs between teammates aside, that wasn’t the reason the Mariners lost to a team they should beat on almost every night. No, they moved a little closer to making the remaining games in this season irrelevant because of two things that have been a problem for most of the season — anemic offense and ineffective middle relief.
In the season obituary of the 2018 Mariners, which has moved beyond the outline process and into crafting, those two aspects will be listed as why a team that once had an 11 1/2 game lead over the Oakland A’s in the second wild card in mid-June might get passed by the Tampa Bay Rays — a team with a third the player payroll.
“Offensively tonight was a struggle, again,” Servais said. “It’s been a common theme here. You try different things and try to get guys going in different ways and we haven’t been able to get it done here recently. It’s been a struggle.”
And the seventh inning?
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“It has been a struggle and it affects a lot of teams with the guys that are in those spots,” Servais said. “We are trying to get certain guys going and we just weren’t able to do it. It’s frustrating. But it’s really hard to try and go out and win a 1-0 game every night. You have to score more runs and put more pressure on the other team and we haven’t done it.”
With the Yankees’ 5-1 win over the A’s in Oakland, the Mariners remain 5 1/2 games back for the second wild card. An opportunity to make up a game in the wild-card standings was wasted. Any help being given to the Mariners was ignored by an indifferent and sloppy performance in front of the smallest crowd at Safeco Field this season — 11,265.
At 77-62, the Mariners have just 24 games remaining in the season.
The Mariners’ lone run against Baltimore starter Alex Cobb, who came into the game with a 4-15 record and 5.11 ERA, came in the first inning when Robinson Cano belted his seventh homer in his truncated season. The solo shot gave Seattle a 1-0 lead.
“I thought with Robbie hitting the home run early, it would really spark us,” Servais said. “But Cobb was using both sides of the plate really well. He tied up some right-handed hitters.”
Their other two runs were gifted by the Orioles in a reminder of why they have 98 loses on the season. Down 5-1 in the eighth, Seattle loaded the bases with one out. Ryon Healy appeared to hit into an inning-ending 6-4-3 double play. But second baseman Breyvic Valera made an awful throw to first base, bouncing it past Trey Mancini and into the stands, allowing two runs to score.
Seattle starter Wade LeBlanc made the 1-0 lead stand up for six innings. Despite allowing six hits and a walk, he never allowed a run to score. He was aided by a fair amount of solid defense behind him, including a big double play and the first of two brilliant diving catches by Ben Gamel in right field — a full layout on the warning track in foul territory.
“I thought Wade threw the ball really well,” Servais said. “He did his job.”
LeBlanc exited after those six innings and just 68 pitches thrown. It isn’t the first time the Mariners have pulled him with a low pitch count and solid results. The fear of that third time through a team’s lineup and the magic of his deception wearing off have been major reasons for that strategy.
“With where we were at in their lineup, that pocket of guys had swung the bat really well against him,” Servais said. “I really felt like he did exactly what we needed him to do — six scoreless innings. And then go to the bullpen.”
That pocket of hitters — Renato Nunez, John Andreoli and Valera — did combine for three hits off LeBlanc.
So Servais turned the game over to right-hander Adam Warren, who was acquired from the Yankees at the MLB trade deadline to solidify the middle relief spot. Warren gave up a solo homer to Nunez — the first batter he faced — to tie the game and take LeBlanc out of the decision. Warren gave up singles to the next two batters he faced before being removed. His replacement was lefty Zach Duke, who was acquired on the same day as Warren, and he fared marginally better. Austin Wynns, who was robbed earlier by Gamel, hit a soft liner to right field that Gamel dove forward to grab for the first out of the inning. But Duke gave up an RBI single to Jonathan Villar that made it 2-1.
Servais went to right-hander Nick Vincent to stop the bleeding. It didn’t happen. Joey Rickard hit a fly ball to left field. Both runners on first and second tried to tag up and advance a base. Denard Span fired the ball and appeared to have Rickard dead at second. But he halted his slide, avoided the tag from second baseman Gordon and retreated for first. Gordon chased him while eyeing Cedric Mullins at third. When Mullins finally broke for home, Gordon struggled to get the ball out of his glove and couldn’t make the throw in time. The missed play made it 3-1. Trey Mancini followed with an RBI double to right field to score another run to make it 4-1.
“It’s a call and a decision we make as a group with the pitching guys and ultimately it’s me,” Servais said. “I felt good with where we were at in the lineup and with what we had with the bullpen. But Warren just wasn’t on tonight. It’s been a struggle for him the last few times out there.”
LeBlanc wasn’t in the clubhouse postgame to discuss the decision to remove him from the game.
The smallest crowd on the season still voiced plenty of displeasure in the showing. And the boos were deserved.
After Seattle cut the lead to 4-3 in the eighth, the duo of Chasen Bradford and Roenis Elias combined to allow another run.
Seattle used six relievers to get a total of nine outs and all of them allowed at least one hit in their brief appearances.