This time there was no lead to give away. After two days of giving their starting pitchers comfy cushions to work with and seeing nothing come of it, the Mariners were playing from behind from the first inning on. The end result was a 5-2 loss to the Dodgers on Wednesday night.
LOS ANGELES — This time there was no lead to give away. After two days of giving their starting pitchers comfy cushions to work with and seeing nothing come of it, the Mariners were playing from behind from the first inning on. The end result was a 5-2 loss to the Dodgers on Wednesday night.
The Mariners suffered three straight losses in Los Angeles and head back to Seattle for a much-needed off day on Thursday before opening open a nine-game, 10-day homestand at Safeco Field.
“It’s always ugly when you lose,” manager Lloyd McClendon said. “We got in the way of our talents on a lot of different fronts tonight.”
The only break from the frustration came in the fourth inning when Nelson Cruz homered in his fifth straight game, crushing a solo shot to right-center off Dodgers starter Brett Anderson. Cruz has six homers in his last five games.
“I think everybody needs a day off,” Cruz said. “I don’t think it will hurt.”
It was a less than ideal start for young right-hander Taijuan Walker. Pitching in a stadium less than hour from his hometown of Yucaipa, and with family and friends in the stands, Walker struggled. He struck out Jimmy Rollins with a 96-mph fastball to start the game. There would be few easy outs after that.
Walker gave up three runs in the first inning, on an RBI single from Andre Ethier and a two-run double off the wall in left field from Scott Van Slyke.
It never got much easier.
Walker issued three walks in the second inning and was fortunate to escape with just one urn allowed on an RBI single from Adrian Gonzalez to make it 4-0.
In the third inning, Walker hit Ethier with a pitch to start the inning. A free base runner to lead off an inning almost always seems to score, and Ethier did on Joc Pederson’s single to right field to make it 5-0.
“I didn’t establish my fastball enough early,” Walker said. “It was frustrating. Everything was up, fastball was up.”
For Walker to be successful, fastball command is the key.
“It’s real tough when I don’t have command of my fastball,” he said. “It’s my best pitch. That’s what I want to establish early so I can throw my other pitches off it. Not having the command of my fastball early definitely makes it lot tougher.”
The final inning of Walker’s outing was his best. He worked a 1-2-3 inning, retiring Yasmani Grandal, Gonzalez and Howie Kendrick in order.
“I felt more comfortable,” he said. “And I had the fastball command there and was able to pound it inside.
But it was little consolation to the overall struggle. His final line: four innings pitched, five runs allowed on six hits with four walks and three strikeouts.
Still, the blame shouldn’t be heaped solely on Walker’s struggles on the mound. The Mariners didn’t help him much in the field (a poor throw from Rickie Weeks to home and a misplay on a single by Cruz in right) or at the plate (1 for 7 with runners in scoring position and seven stranded on the basepaths). It was collective pile of yuck, highlighted by the fifth and sixth inning.
In fifth inning, Mike Zunino doubled over the wall in right field — a much needed hit for the struggling catcher. With one out and Walker’s spot in the order coming to the plate, McClendon called on pinch-hitter Justin Ruggiano. The veteran bench player delivered his first hit of the season, singling up the middle with a sharp line drive. Zunino hesitated for a few moments, checking to see if the line drive would be caught before breaking for third. Third-base coach Rich Donnelly still waved him home despite the pause. Pederson delivered a dart of a throw to home and Zunino was out about three steps before he started his slide into the plate.
“Rich didn’t see him hesitate,” McClendon said. “And Zunino should have pulled it up.”
And yet, that wasn’t even the worst mistake. Robinson Cano made a costly and atypical mental mistake at the wrong time.
Seattle had loaded the bases with no out with Austin Jackson reaching on an error, Cano singling to right-center and Cruz drawing a walk. Kyle Seager plated a run with a ground ball fielder’s choice. Cano moved to third and Cruz to second with first base open.
The last part is critical. Because when Logan Morrison worked a walk off lefty Paco Rodriguez, it should have loaded the bases with one out. But Cano forgot that first base was unoccupied and started jogging home as if it were a bases-loaded walk. When he finally realized the mistake, it was too late. Grandal fired to third base to Juan Uribe, who tagged out the retreating Cano. It was an awful blunder.
“I thought there was bases loaded,” Cano said. “I should have been paying more attention to the game. I’m human. I’m going to make mistakes. But those are the kind of things that I can’t let happen again.”
Asked if it was the dumbest thing he’s ever done on a baseball field, Cano said: “I would say, yes. I feel in that situation that I was the dumbest guy in the game.
“There’s no excuse for that.”
With two outs, Zunino grounded out to third base to end the inning.
Would the Mariners have scored more than one run in the inning? It’s not a given. But the chance to make the deficit more workable for the seventh, eighth and ninth inning was nixed by Cano’s mistake.
“Those are the things that make you feel embarrassed after being in the game for so long,” he said.