SEATTLE – At some point, a stretch like this was inevitable.
Too many pitchers lost to injury. Too many replacements and fill-ins trying to hold the line.
Eventually, that was bound to catch up with the Mariners.
For the second straight game, the Mariners got blown out; this time, an 8-1 loss Sunday to the Chicago White Sox, which came one night after a 16-1 loss. And for the second straight game, the decisive blows were delivered in the first few innings, draining the suspense early on a beautiful Seattle day.
“We’ll be OK,” manager Scott Servais said. “I know it’s hard for the guys in the clubhouse right now to see that. We will eventually get healthy. We’ve got to fight, we have to claw, and it’s a very adverse time. We knew it was coming. Now we’ve got to deal with it.”
The Mariners ended their just-completed seven-game homestand with a thud. They lost the final three games, all while scoring just one run in each game. Meanwhile, their starting pitchers in the final two games combined to allow 17 runs in less than seven innings.
The Mariners are in last place in the American League West and about to embark on a nine-game road trip that includes two first-place teams.
Sunday followed the gloomy blueprint of Saturday night’s 16-1 loss: too many runs given up too early.
Chris Heston, a 29-year-old who two years ago threw a no-hitter with the Giants, started Sunday’s game for the Mariners. He was a last-minute addition, having been called up from Class AAA Tacoma after Saturday night’s loss.
In the first inning, he walked the bases loaded, then fell behind in the count and gave up a two-run, two-out hit.
Heston did run into a little bad luck; two of the next run-producing hits were check-swing singles. But he pointed to the walks as the main reason for the five runs he allowed in the first inning.
“Stuff starts to kind of snowball there a little bit,” Heston said. “But the three walks put me in a bad spot to start the inning and bit me.”
“The thing that was frustrating for Chris and us is the lack of command,” he said. “You have to throw strikes. You have to trust your stuff, trust your defense behind you. He was living on the edges, and it wasn’t working out too good.”
The five runs allowed in the first inning, and the eight runs allowed in the first five innings, would have been difficult regardless. But the Mariners’ offense once again generated little; only Nelson Cruz’s seventh-inning solo home run kept the Mariners from being shut out.
Both Cruz and Servais mentioned the importance of Robinson Cano, who is expected to return to the lineup Tuesday when the Mariners play the Nationals. The Mariners have scored two fewer runs per game without Cano than they did when he was in the lineup.
“I think we see the impact that Robbie has on our offense,” Servais said. “It allows other guys to be in the right spots. We just haven’t generated much.”
Cruz added, “It looks like a different team when he’s out. We score less, less runs since he’s been out.”
Since getting back to .500 on May 10 – the final game Cano played, incidentally – the Mariners have lost eight of their past 11 games.
“We’re in a tough stretch,” Servais said. “I talk about it often: Adversity does not build character, it reveals it. I think we’ll find out a lot about our guys coming up.
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