Here’s the good news: The Mariners’ six-game losing streak is well short of the club record of 17 set a year ago.
The bad news: It’s early.
In front of the biggest crowd of the series, 11,575, the Tampa Bay Rays completed a four-game sweep of the Mariners, the first in history between the teams, with a 4-3 triumph Thursday.
After sweeping the Tigers in Detroit at the start of the now-concluded 10-game trip, and taking one more in Toronto, the Mariners gave the appearance of competitiveness.
Then they lost the final two in Canada and the quartet in Florida. Granted, three of the Tampa losses were by one run and the other by two runs. And Tampa is leading the American League East at 18-8, the best record in the league.
So it’s not exactly shocking that the Mariners are 11-16 and on the verge of last place in the AL West. It’s just that it is so annoyingly familiar.
The Mariners even tried an unusual lineup — all left-handed hitters, not seen in Seattle since 1983 — but they still struck out nine times and could do little damage to big right-hander Jeff Niemann and the Rays’ rugged bullpen.
“We’ve played gtood teams, and they’ve all been tight games,” said manager Eric Wedge, who seemed to be running out of either threats or inspirational words. “We’ve got to find a way to win games.”
Asked if a shakeup were imminent, Wedge deflected: “It’s a process. We’ve already made a couple moves, and if we have to make more, we will.”
The key moment came in the second inning when Tampa’s Desmond Jennings hit a two-out, two-run triple to complete a four-run inning against Mariners starter Kevin Millwood. It was Millwood’s only bad inning, but with the decrepit offense, that’s all it takes to lose.
In the top of the inning, former Ray John Jaso, getting his first start at catcher as a Mariner — had the first of his two doubles. A ground-out scored Kyle Seager, who had walked, and a single by Justin Smoak gave Seattle a 2-0 lead.
But the lead dissolved in the Rays’ spree, after which they had only two more hits. The Mariners’ only counter the rest of the way was a pair of two out doubles by Dustin Ackley and Ichiro to cut the lead to 4-3.
In the sixth came a moment that typified the current travail. Jaso led off with a double, but Mike Carp, Smoak and Michael Saunders all struck out, the last two by reliever Jake McGee, who retired all seven batters he faced.
“We’ve got get Jaso over (to third, and home) there,” Wedge said. “They’ve got to learn to do that.”
Baseball school continues when the Mariners return home Friday to face the non-glamorous Minnesota Twins, who at 6-18 are even more hapless than the Mariners.
The matchup brings together the two teams in MLB that have been no-hit this season. Party on.