A 3-4 homestand that included a 16-1 loss Saturday to the Chicago White Sox laid out the Mariners’ woes in grim relief — a patchwork rotation, an overworked bullpen and a hobbled lineup is no way to stay in contention. The 20-25 Mariners fell into last place in the AL West by a half-game after an 8-1 defeat Sunday that was their eighth loss in the past 11 games.
Not only are the Mariners playing without four starting pitchers, they don’t have four position players that opened the season — 2B Robinson Cano and RF Mitch Haniger were injured, and CF Leonys Martin and C Mike Zunino were demoted to AAA Tacoma. The club also removed, temporarily at least, erratic Edwin Diaz from the closer role.
Sunday’s starter, Chris Heston, called up from Tacoma the night before, became the 11th starting pitcher for the Mariners in 45 games, a major league high that tied the club’s record set in the 1977 expansion season.
The Mariners have used 42 players, four ahead of No. 2 Toronto. According to Mariners research, the last time a team used so many players so soon in a season was the 1955 Kansas City Athletics (43).
The past two seasons have seen the Mariners set club records for personnel: 54 last season and 51 in 2015. Unless luck changes, the Mariners seem destined to bury those marks.
Until the White Sox took three of four, the Mariners had won five consecutive home series. They could have split with Chicago, but managed only a single hit and run in Thursday’s 10-inning loss. And on the Mariners’ only run, 1B Danny Valencia hit a triple but injured his wrist on the slide into third and missed two games.
Monday (Mariners 6, Athletics 5) — Six relievers were used to get the final 11 outs after homers by DH Nelson Cruz and 3B Kyle Seager helped provide a 6-3 lead into the ninth. Diaz couldn’t figure out his mechanics and walked four of five batters before Tony Zych rescued him, providing a high-anxiety way to end a four-game losing streak — a bases-loaded strikeout. A pitcher actually returned from the disabled list — Steve Cishek made his first appearance of the season, getting one batter in the seventh.
Tuesday (Athletics 9, Mariners 6) — Down 4-1, the Mariners went ahead 5-4 on Seager’s solo homer in the seventh. But in the first game after benching Diaz, ninth-inning relievers Cishek and Marc Rzepcyznski each give up homers in a five-run mess.
Wednesday (Mariners 4, Athletics 0) — Christian Bergman delivered a gem for a beleaguered staff with career highs in innings (7.1) and strikeouts (nine). A two-run single by SS Jean Segura extended his hitting streak to 16 games.
Thursday (Mariners 5, White Sox 4) — CF Jarrod Dyson hit a home run, his career-high-tying second of the season, stole two bases and scored the winning run on pinch-hitter Guillermo Heredia’s walk-off single. Making his major league debut, Sam Gaviglio pitched five shutout innings, giving up three hits. Reliever Dan Altavilla gave up two solo home runs in the eighth to tie the game at 4-4.
Friday (White Sox 2, Mariners 1, 10 innings) — The Mariners had one hit, a second-inning triple by Valencia, who scored on a sac fly. That was it. Ariel Miranda had another good start, seven innings, four hits and eight strikeouts, but Jose Quintana was better over eight. Diaz returned from his momentary exile with two shutout innings, but in the 10th, Zych gave up a double to Melky Cabrera to decide it.
Saturday (White Sox 16, Mariners 1) — Yovani Gallardo, the rotation’s remaining senior eminence, was helpless, giving up 10 runs on nine hits and two walks in 3.2 innings. Avisail Garcia had two home runs and six RBI. The Mariners were so shorthanded that INF Mike Freeman pitched the ninth. The 16 runs weren’t a season high; they gave up 19 in Detroit April 25 in a start by Felix Hernandez.
Sunday (White Sox 8, Mariners 1) — Another starting-pitcher blow-up, this time from Heston, another newcomer. He walked three in a five-run first inning that was aided by two swinging bunts that went for infield singles. Longtime nemesis Derek Holland, in his first year in Chicago, pitched eight innings and gave up a solo homer to Cruz among six hits and six strikeouts.
Innings of the week
A’s ninth Monday — After getting the first out with a 6-3 lead, Diaz walked four of the next five batters to force in a run and get pulled. Zych came on to get an infield out that pushed over another run to cut the lead to 6-5. But on a 3-2 pitch to Rosales, a back-door slider was callecd strike three.
A’s ninth Tuesday — Defending a 5-4 lead, Cishek, thrust into the ninth inning in his second appearance of the season after losing the closer’s job year ago to Diaz, gave up a single and a home run, the latter to .202-hitting Matt Joyce. Marc Rzepcyznski came on and gave up a three-run homer to Mark Canha.
Mariners ninth Thursday — Tied at 4 against lefty reliever Dan Jennings, Dyson singled and was safe at second when he beat the throw that would have started a double play. C Carlos Ruiz was out on the fielder’s choice, but Jennings intentionally walked Segura to create force plays. Pinch-hitting for RF Ben Gamel, the right-handed Heredia lofted a soft single to right center that scored Dyson standing up with the winning run.
Good week/bad week
Good: Cruz was 5 for 14 with three homers and six RBIs and leads the AL with 37 RBIs. Reliever James Pazos has not allowed a run in 14 of 18 outings. Bad: C Tuffy Gosewich was 1 for 13 with eight strikeouts. The other catcher, Ruiz, was 1 for 8. CF Jarrod Dyson was 2 for 20. Reliever Dillon Overton worked 4.1 IP Saturday and gave up seven hits and five runs and was sent back to Tacoma.
Not in the box score
- The Mariners’ two transactions Sunday brought the total to 76 in 50 days. Seattle is averaging a transaction about every 16 hours.
- Mariners starters had not allowed a run in 19.1 consecutive innings until Jose Abreu’s solo HR in the sixth inning Friday.
- INF Mike Freeman’s one inning as a reliever Saturday made him the seventh position player in club history to pitch. Others: Luis Sardiñas, 2016; Jesus Sucre twice in 2015; Jamie Burke, 2008; John Mabry, 2000, and Manny Castillo,1983.
- Elias said Bergman he became the first pitcher in club history to not allow a run while striking out at least nine in one of his first two starts as a Mariner.
- Heston joined Gaviglio in the week as first-time starters in Seattle, raising the season total to 11 (also: Hernandez, Iwakuma, Paxton, Gallardo, Miranda, De Jong, Overton, Bergman, Weber)
- Through Thursday, the Mariners led the majors in scoring first, having done so in 69 percent of their games.
“I was thinking about a lot of stuff in that game. That’s never happened in game to me before, never in my life.” — Diaz Tuesday
“What we saw last night was certainly a 23-year-old that didn’t have a good feel for what was going on out there and more importantly didn’t know how to fix it. I think with where we are at the major league level and the pressures of the ninth inning, it’s probably a situation where we do give him some work earlier in the game.” — Servais on the temporary demotion of Diaz
“We’re thin in the bullpen right now. Cishek, it was tough, he hasn’t been out there in a long time, but he’s been there before. We’ve been running Vincent very hard. There’s some nights it’s hard to swallow, but you have to give those guys chances, or you’ll run them into the ground too.” — Servais after Cishek and Marc Rzepczynski gave up five runs in the ninth
“Huge shot in the arm for us. We’ve asked all of our guys to keep us in the game, and he did more than that tonight. He took over the game at a time when we really needed it.” — Servais on Bergman’s start Wednesday
“It’s hard to sum it up in a few words.” — Bergman on his 7.1-inning start
“The most frustrating part is never giving the guys a chance to come back and battle. It’s just one of those days that everything that was put in play was getting through, and when I made a mistake it went over the fence.” — Gallardo on his 10 runs given up Saturday in the 16-1 loss
“We’ll be OK. 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. I’s a very adverse time. We knew it was coming. Now we’ve got to deal with it.” — Servais after losing the weekend’s two games by a cumulative score of 24-2
Monday — RHP Steve Cishek returned from rehab assignment and activated from 10-day disabled list; LHP Zac Curtis optioned to AA Arkansas. Tuesday — OF Boog Powell recalled from AAA Tacoma; 2B Robinson Canó placed on 10-day disabled list, retroactive to May 13 (right quad strain). Wednesday — RHP Casey Lawrence recalled from Tacoma. RHP Chase De Jong optioned to Tacoma. Sunday — RHP Chris Heston recalled from Tacoma, LHP Dillon Overton optioned to Tacoma; 1B Dan Vogelbach recalled from Tacoma, INF Mike Freeman sent down to Tacoma.
After an off day Monday, the Mariners begin an eight-day, three-city trip at 4:05 p.m. Tuesday in Washington D.C. against the Nationals, the first of the trip’s two interleague series against National League division leaders. After three in the nation’s capital, they play three in Boston, then two against Colorado in Denver.
The M’s will soon run out of minor leaguers to call up. Perhaps they should recycle some pitching retreads. I think Brian Allard and Jay Bullinger are available.
Too bad they don’t have SS Chris Taylor. He’s killing it for the Dodgers.
Taylor has been a spare part during his career, but, yes, he is playing well for the Dodgers. He is getting his chance because of injuries, and may return to the bench once the Dodgers are whole. I suspect that every team can point to a castoff who is doing well elsewhere. Mark Trumbo comes to mind, as does Adam Jones. Larry David made a fine point with Jay Buhner.
Logan Morrison too. Pineda . . . wait, I’m going to stop here. Someone else can go down this rabbit hole.
At the end of that rabbit hole you will find Danny Kaye. I recall his comments at the opening ceremonies of the Kingdome, “Get your World Series tickets early.” A song and dance man he was; a soothsayer he was not.