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Out of right field: Mariners stumbling at start of pandemic-shortened sprint

UPDATED: Mon., Aug. 3, 2020

SEATTLE – Stop me if you’ve heard this one.

The Seattle Mariners got a pretty good performance by their starting pitcher, but …

Monday’s “but” was a disastrous top of the fifth inning that saw 14 batters come to the plate and eight of them cross it.

It’s hard to recover from something like that.

With the loss, a 11-1 decision to a veteran Oakland Athletics squad, the Mariners (4-7) have dropped three in a row with the best player in baseball – playing with “dad power” now – on his way to T-Mobile Park for a three-game series.

Usually 11 games into the season, sportwriters like to say “It’s a marathon, not a sprint.” But this year, with just 60 games in the pandemic-shortened season, it is a sprint. And the M’s have stumbled out of the blocks.

Good start, rough finish: Mariners starter Justus Sheffield fairly cruised through four innings, primarily using his heavy sinker and tricky slider to limit the A’s to just two base runners over the first 12 outs of the game.

Matters changed in the fifth.

The bottom of the A’s order loaded the bases with one out on a walk and pair of singles, with Sheffield starting to open up his front side, allowing his sinker to drift.

Sheffield got leadoff hitter Marcus Semien to swing through another one of those biting sliders that bores in to right-handed batters for the second out, but Ramon Laureano inside-outed a sinker into right-center that scored two, ending Sheffield’s evening at 86 pitches.

In his young career, Sheffield has made it through five or more innings just three times in 10 starts.

Veteran reliever Bryan Shaw entered and the wheels really came off the cart, with Shaw retiring just one of eight batters faced, and the A’s scored eight total in the inning.

Little help?: The bullpen once again provided no relief. In four appearances with the Mariners, Shaw has pitched 3 1/3 innings and allowed 10 earned runs on 10 hits with four walks.

He’s not fooling anyone right now. Shaw threw 28 pitches on Monday without recording a swing and miss. Of the 92 pitches he’s thrown this season, he has five swings and misses.

On a related note, teams have to trim rosters from 30 to 28 by Thursday.

But it wasn’t just Shaw.

Zac Grotz followed him and was no better. The 27-year old who made his MLB debut last week faced 12 batters in two innings and walked four, hit two and gave up two hits, one of which was Khris Davis’ first home run on the season – on an 0-2 count.

Seeing it well: Kyle Seager continued his strong start to the season. His double into the right-field corner with two down in the third drove in J.P. Crawford from second with the first run of the game. It was Seager’s 11th RBI in as many games, good for third in the American League, behind only Aaron Judge (14) and former M’s slugger Nelson Cruz (13).

Seager said after Friday’s game that a speed-pitch machine that he used over the break has helped him start this truncated season in mid-season form.

“I think that certainly helped just being able to, you know, see some velo(city) before you get here so you’re a little bit further ahead,” he said Friday.

“I guess it’s warmer. I like the warm weather,” he joked. Seager went 2 for 3 with a walk and is hitting .316 thus far.

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