As Julio Rodriguez screamed encouragement from first base along with most of the 34,740 in attendance, Ty France wouldn’t give in despite some recent struggles.
He fouled 98-mph sinkers and fought off biting sliders that were destined for his back foot from left-hander Josh Hader, trying to will himself into keeping the bottom of the ninth alive and giving the white-hot Eugenio Suarez a chance to play the hero one more time.
But the 10-pitch battle between the Mariners All-Star first baseman and the All-Star lefty closer, acquired by the Padres at midseason, came to an end Tuesday night when Hader dropped his seldom-used changeup into the strike zone and France couldn’t get a piece of it for a swinging strike three.
And as catcher Austin Nola pumped his fist, Hader pounded his glove in celebration and the Padres streamed on to the field for postgame handshakes, the Mariners exited into their clubhouse with the odd feeling of having failed to score a single run in a 2-0 loss.
“Our guys play with a lot of grit, grind or whatever you want to call it,” manager Scott Servais said. “They will figure out a way. And tonight, even there I thought in the ninth inning we were going to find a way to pull some magic out. You felt the crowd, everybody was fired up. They’re behind us and they feel it. Our players feel it and we appreciate that. More times than not, we will come through, it just didn’t happen tonight.”
It snapped a streak of 72 games of scoring at least one run — the second-longest active streak in MLB and fourth longest of the season.
More times than not, in their recent run of success that has them surging toward a postseason berth, the Mariners will score at least one run on their worst days.
The last time the Mariners were held scoreless came on June 19 at T-Mobile Park.
If that date sounds familiar, well, that was the Sunday afternoon when the Seattle’s season hit rock bottom with a thud of discontent.
The Mariners were not only held without a run in a 4-0 loss to the Angels that day, but they were also shut out, 3-0, the day before and lost four of five games in the extended home series.
A team with stated postseason expectations had fallen to 29-39 and was fading into irrelevance.
Seattle had a day off on that Monday and many baseball insiders expected at least token changes to the coaching staff if not more. The season had reached that level of disappointment.
No changes came and the Mariners won 8-2 on June 21 — the first of five in a row and a 50-23 record since then.
“We are playing really good baseball right now,” said Suarez, who had one of Seattle’s three hits in the game. “We’ve got to keep doing it. We didn’t have the success (tonight). But we made good swings and we had some good at-bats.”
While Hader wrapped up the shutout, it was veteran right-hander Yu Darvish, who did all the work for it.
Using his entire arsenal of pitches, changing speeds with each of them and manipulating the baseball in ways that typical pitchers can’t, Darvish worked eight shutout innings on 94 pitches, allowing just two base runners — a first-inning single from Suarez and a seventh inning single from France — while striking out seven batters.
It was the first time he’s pitched eight shutout inning since 2014.
“You’ve gotta give credit to Darvish,” Servais said. “He’s been in the league a long time. He did a nice job tonight keeping us off balance. I thought we hit some balls hard that we’re caught. We weren’t able to force him into any other base runners, no walks, no nothing. Tonight was about lack of offense. But not for lack of trying or effort.”
Darvish gave up eight balls in play with exit speeds of 95-mph or higher, including the two singles. But the cooler air of September and an open roof killed the distance on a pair of well struck fly balls from Suarez and Cal Raleigh.
“He’s really good,” Servais said of Darvish. “He’s always had a great feel for changing shapes and speeds on his breaking balls — the cutter, the slider and even 74 mile-per-hour curveballs. He has the splitter and then he can still throw 95 when he wants to go get it. It’s not an easy at-bat.”
With so many pitches and variations, he doesn’t fall into distinct patterns.
“It’s every time through the order,” Servais said. “He’s a veteran guy. He’s not going to get you out the same way. He’s going to do it different ways, different sequencing of pitches. He threw fastballs the first time through the lineup and second time through the lineup, not any fastballs until he got two strikes. The third time through, he just kept mixing it up.”
The Mariners got a solid but abbreviated start from Logan Gilbert, who pitched five innings, allowing one run on four hits with three walks and five strikeouts.
“Obviously, the pitch count got up on him,” Servais said. “He had a hard time putting guys away tonight. You kind of saw it in the first inning in the long at-bat with (Manny) Machado.”
Of his 107 pitches, 46 came with two strikes and Gilbert only had the five strikeouts. Padres hitters fouled off a total of 27 of his pitches and he generated just nine swings and misses in his outings.
“They had some deep at-bats and fouled off some tough pitches,” Gilbert said. “I’d get to two strikes and just not having that put-away pitch in the right location. They took some good pitches, fouled off some good pitches and me being just a couple of inches off on pitches.”
His lone run allowed came in the fourth inning. With two outs and Jake Cronenworth on first base, Gilbert hung a first-pitch curveball over the middle of the plate that Wil Myers pulled into the left-field corner.
Cronenworth was able to score from first with left fielder Jesse Winker being deliberate in playing the ball off the wall and then bouncing his throw to cut-off man J.P. Crawford, who didn’t field it cleanly to make a throw home on the play.
After Erik Swanson, Matt Festa and Matt Brash kept the Padres scoreless in the sixth, seventh and eighth. San Diego picked a big insurance run in the top of the ninth.
Austin Nola singled with one out off Paul Sewald and that was able to advance to third when Rodriguez mishandled Jurickson Profar’s soft single to center.
“He was trying to deke the runner and not let him go to third base, which he did a nice job of, but the ball skipped up on him and he didn’t field it cleanly,” Servais said. “And the runner got to third base.”
It left runners on the corners with one out and the always dangerous Juan Soto at the plate. Sewald was able to get weak contact from Soto — a soft bouncer to the first base side of the mount. But he had no play at home as Nola raced home for an unearned run.