The Mariners aren’t so talented that they can steal wins playing less than their best. “Baseball is a great game,” said M’s manager Scott Servais. “But on many days it can be very cruel.”

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Felix Hernandez has taken the mound twice in the past six days, and the results are as follows.

Game 1: Six innings pitched, three runs allowed.

Game 2: Six innings pitched, three runs allowed.

So what was the distinction between those two outings from the King?

In the first one, the Mariners appeared to be in the midst of a breakthrough. But after the second, it seems they’re in the midst of a breakdown.

Six days ago, the Mariners climbed two games above .500 after a 13-3 thrashing of the Astros, who have the best record in baseball. Wednesday, they lost their fourth consecutive game while being swept by the Phillies, who have the worst record in baseball.

The momentary elation they felt upon Hernandez’s return has been replaced by frustration. Seriously? Two home losses to Philadelphia?

“Baseball is a great game,” said M’s manager Scott Servais. “But on many days it can be very cruel.”

Sometimes it can be cruel for a stretch of days.

The aforementioned win over Houston capped a six-game winning streak that included a 7-5 win over Tigers ace Justin Verlander, who took a perfect game into the sixth. But now, in addition to trailing six teams for the final wild-card spot, the Mariners are stockpiling pitching woes, too.

Wednesday, the team announced that starter Drew Smyly will undergo Tommy John surgery and miss 12-15 months. Smyly hadn’t pitched a game for the M’s all season, but with Hisashi Iwakuma inching closer to his return, it seemed Seattle’s starting rotation was on the cusp of being as balanced as its lineup. That’s not happening, meaning the team is going to have to rely on names such as Sam Gaviglio and Andrew Moore, who are not nearly as refined.

Additionally, closer Edwin Diaz is showing signs of vulnerability again. The 23-year-old gave up four runs in Tuesday’s 8-2 loss to Philly, and on Wednesday, allowed two ninth-inning runs in his team’s 5-4 defeat.

Servais said he plans to keep in Diaz in the closer role for now, but still — just a few days after everything seemed like it was falling into place … it’s starting to fall apart.

“We just gotta forget about this week,” said Hernandez, when asked how the team was feeling amid the losing streak. “We need to go to Anaheim and play great baseball.”

Great baseball has been elusive over the past few days. Servais has made no secret about that. The variables in this sport make it so losses can pile up despite good play, but that’s not what’s happening with the Mariners.

There have been general issues — such as the bullpen struggling or scorching hitters cooling off. But there have also been little things, such as Jarrod Dyson being thrown out trying to swipe third Wednesday, which may have cost the M’s a run.

Based on the emergence of players like Ben Gamel, Mitch Haniger and Gaviglio, it would seem the Mariners (39-41) are more talented than originally thought. But they aren’t so talented that they can steal wins playing their “C” game.

If there’s a margin for error with this team, you need a microscope to see it. And lately, there has been error galore.

“Anyone can beat anyone in this league. It happens. We need to play well. We’re not playing well right now,” said Servais. “In this league, when you’re not on top of your game, you’re gonna struggle.”

This was supposed to be a key stretch for the M’s, who entered the Astros series with the best home record in the American League West. This was their chance to rack up W’s at Safeco Field against teams that — Houston aside — were on the wrong end of .500.

But instead of seizing opportunity, they squandered it. And with the midway point of the season one game away, they find themselves toward the back of the wild-card peloton.

Granted, this is baseball, where streaks and skids are commonplace. The Mariners could sweep the Angels, win both of the ensuing homestand’s series and head into the All-Star break sizzling.

In the meantime, they can’t give away series to teams like the Phillies, who were 24-51 when they landed in Seattle. And yes, that’s just what this was — a giveaway.

From good to bad
The Mariners had a six-game winning streak until last weekend and have since lost four in a row. A comparison of their efforts:
Dates Run differential Avg. HRs Starter ERA Bullpen ERA
Winning steak (6) June 18-23 +24 .307 12 3.75 3.32
Losing streak (4) June 24-28 -16 .214 4 4.10 8.38