Until Sunday in Boston, the Mariners went a week with just one significant swing of a bat in the first five games of a tough road trip, a three-run homer by Nelson Cruz Thursday. But at Fenway Park, Seattle had a season-high-tying 16 hits to back seven innings of shutout ball by Christian Bergman for a 5-0 triumph, the fourth win in 13 games for a temporarily broken team.
Losing two of three at Washington and Boston was hardly a surprise — the Mariners are 9-20 on the road — but it did leave the Mariners, at 22-29, locked in with 21-28 Kansas City in a race for the worst record in the American League. Good news for the Mariners: LHP James Paxton will return from the disabled list to start Wednesday at Safeco Field.
Rob Whalen Saturday became the 12th starting pitcher this season, breaking the club’s single-season record, and it’s only the Memorial Day weekend. Whalen gave up five runs in 5.1 innings and was promptly dispatched back to AAA Tacoma after the game as the Rainiers shuttle remains in hyper-drive.
The pitching injuries are one thing. But until 3B Kyle Seager scored Sunday on a fourth-inning wild pitch, the Mariners had a 23-inning shutout streak, including back-to-back shutouts Friday and Saturday. The offense has been woeful. It had nine runs in the previous eight games before Sunday (1-7), with six one-run innings and one multi-run inning (the Cruz homer) .
The 21 runs scored in two games in Philly May 9-10 must have been more curse than blessing.
Tuesday (Nationals 10, Mariners 1) — After a good start in his previous outing, Bergman gave up all 10 runs and 14 hits in four innings, including three homers in an eight-run fourth inning. 3B Anthony Rendon had three hits, two homers and five RBI. Including this game, the Mariners have 32 runs in 12 games. In his first game back, C Mike Zunino homered, and Emilio Pagan pitched four shutout innings of relief.
Wednesday (Nationals 5, Mariners 1) — The Mariners reached a season-low seven games below .500 (20-27) when another newbie pitcher, Sam Gaviglio, faltered early. A four-run first, including a three-run homer by Rendon, decided the game, the Mariners’ fifth loss in a row. The four runs were unearned because of a throwing error by SS Jean Segura on the game’s first play.
Thursday (Mariners 4, Nationals 2) — The game start was moved up four hours to avoid bad weather, and the early start may have helped with Cruz waking up the offense with a three-run homer in the sixth, followed in the seventh by 2B Robinson Cano’s RBI single. Ariel Miranda gave up two runs on three hits and three walks over five innings, and five relievers, including Edwin Diaz in the ninth, shut down the potent Nationals lineup.
Friday (Red Sox 3, Mariners 0) — The Red Sox gummed the Mariners with scores from an infield grounder, a wild pitch and a passed ball. Yovani Gallardo gave up seven hits, five walks and all three runs, but was undercut by two outfield errors as well his wild pitch and Zunino’s passed ball. Segura had three hits.
Saturday (Red Sox 5, Mariners 0) — The Mariners’ ninth loss in 12 games was a second consecutive shutout, a first in their history in Fenway Park. In his third big-league start, Boston LHP Brian Johnson pitched a complete game, striking out eight, allowing five hits and no walks. The Mariners had two runners in scoring position, and Cano, Cruz and Seager combined to go 1-for-22 in the two Fenway games.
Sunday (Mariners 5, Red Sox 0) — The club’s worst hitter, C Carlos Ruiz, had three hits off one of Boston’s best, Rick Porcello, and Jarrod Dyson, Segura, Cano, Cruz and Seager each had two hits as the Mariners for a day broke out of a slump. Bergman gave up four hits and benefited from double plays in each of the first four innings. LF Guillermo Heredia had a solo homer in the eighth and Cano a two-run shot in the the ninth.
Red Sox sixth Friday — Ahead 1-0, Josh Rutledge beat out an infield single. Jackie Bradley Jr. walked. After an out on a fielder’s choice, Deven Marrero walked to load the bases. Zunino couldn’t catch a low curve ball from starter Yovani Gallardo, and the wild pitch scored Rutledge. Mookie Betts reloaded the bases with a walk. Dan Altavilla relieved Gallardo, whose first-pitch strike bounced off the glove of Zunino. The passed ball allowed Bradley to score for a 3-0 lead.
Mariners fourth Sunday — This shouldn’t be a big deal, but after Seager doubled and went to third on an infield out, he scored on a wild pitch by Porcello. It was the first run by the Mariners in 23 innings. However lame was the scoring play, it was manna from baseball heaven for a starving team.
Good week/bad week
Good week: Among American League left-handed relievers, James Pazos ranks fourth in strikeouts-per-9 IP with 11.76 (27 K, 20.2 IP). Segura is 9 for 25, and leads the AL in batting at .339. Heredia is 7 for 19. Bad week: Cruz is 3×19. RF Ben Gamel, hitting second Sunday, is 2×15 with eight strikeouts. Taylor Motter is 0x13 and didn’t play Sunday. Zunino is 1×16 since his latest call-up, and had misplays Friday that allowed in two runs.
Not in the box score
- Since 2000, the Mariners this season have the most players used, pitchers used, and starters used in the first 50 games of a season, according to research by David W. Smith of Retrosheet. Rob Whalen Saturday was the 43rd to play in a game, highest in the majors, and the 27th pitcher.
- Most players used through 50 games since 2000 — Players: 1, 2017 Seattle, 43; 2, 2015 Tampa Bay, 42; 3, 2015 Texas, 41; T4, 5 teams, 40. Starters: 1, Seattle, 12; T2, 2007 New York (AL) and 2002 St. Louis, 11; T4, 16 teams, 10. Pitchers: 1, 2017 Seattle, 27; T2, 2016 Cincinnati, 2013 Toronto, 24; T3, 2015 Rays, 2015 Rangers, 2009 Marlins, 23.
- Previous marks for the Mariners were 34 players (2014), eight starters (2014, 2009, 2002, 2000) and 18 pitchers (2007).
- In the fourth-inning horror Tuesday, Cruz showed why needs to stay as DH, misplaying a catchable fly ball into an RBI triple.
- LHP James Paxton made a rehab start Thursday with AA Arkansas Travelers vs. Frisco: four IP, five hits, two earned runs, no walks, five strikeouts and a home run; 38 strikes among 55 pitches.
- The last pitcher before Bill Johnson to throw a shutout in his Fenway Park debut was Pedro Martinez in 1998.
- The back-to-back shutouts was the first time that has happened to a team at Fenway since 2015 and only the fourth time since 1995. Baltimore in September 2015 was shut out three times in a row. The Red Sox were shut out in back-to-back games against the Yankees in 2004, but there had not been consecutive shutouts in the previous decade prior to that.
- Cano has 31 RBIs in his past 33 games, but his homer Sunday, ninth for the season, was the first since May 10.
Tuesday — Mike Zunino, C, and Emilio Pagan, RHP, recalled from AAA Tacoma. Chris Heston, RHP, Daniel Vogelbach, 1B, Tuffy Gosewisch, C, optioned to Tacoma.
Wednesday –– Robinson Cano, INF, activated from the 10-day disabled list.
Thursday — Rob Whalen, RHP, recalled from Tacoma. Pagan optioned to Tacoma. Andrew Aplin, OF, acquired from HOU in exchange for a player to be chosen later or cash considerations. Heston designated for assignment.
Friday — Heston and Mike Freeman, INF, claimed off waivers by the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Sunday — Whalen sent down to Tacoma. Reliever Ryne Harper (2-0, three saves, 1.89 ERA) called up from Tacoma and will join the team in Denver.
“We’ve got to get that offense going. We haven’t been able to keep the line moving at all. It’s just the quality of the at-bats. Getting deep in counts. We’re letting pitchers just run through us. They’re looking up, it’s the seventh inning, and they’re not even close to 100 pitches yet.” — Servais after the loss Tuesday
“We’ve got to pick up the intensity. I’ve about had it with this . . . yes, we have injuries. Nobody cares.” — Servais after the 5-1 loss Wednesday
“I thought our guys really responded to a disappointing effort last night. They rallied together. We got after it. Everybody contributed today.” — Servais after the win Thursday
“(Gallardo’s) fastball has a lot of late life especially when it’s down in the zone. I thought I had enough glove to get there. I just underplayed it a little.” — Zunino on wild pitch that let in the Red Sox’s second run Friday. He then allowed a passed ball for the third run.
“This is embarrassing.” — Cruz after the second consecutive shutout loss to the Red Sox Saturday.
“Not good. It wasn’t a good ball game.” — Servais Saturday
“I thought (Saturday) we hit probably rock bottom. The only way out is to start crawling up.” — Servais after the win Sunday
“Couldn’t wait to get back out there. Best way to forget about things.” — Bergman Sunday on shutting out Boston following his start in Washington, when he gave up 10 runs in four innings.
The Mariners finish their eight-game road trip with two in Colorado, including a 12:10 p.m. Memorial Day start in Denver Monday against the Rockies, who have, at 33-18, the National League’s best record. Sam Gaviglio (0-1, 1.38 ERA) goes for Seattle against Tyler Chatwood (4-6, 4.50). The Mariners and Rockies both go to Safeco Field for two games Wednesday and Thursday. The Mariners then host three against Tampa.