The Mariners are a meteorological phenomenon. On an afternoon rich in sunshine and promise, they conjure up a dark cloud and affix it above the heads of all.
This team needs more injuries like President Trump needs a Russian ambassador wedged under his bed. All Seattle lost Thursday were the American League’s leading hitter and the AL’s top RBI man.
A pitch struck DH Nelson Cruz on his right hand, and second base was in the way of a slide by SS Jean Segura, twisting his ankle. Not by coincidence, the Mariners’ four-game winning streak ended, a 6-3 loss (box) to a Colorado team desperate for a break against the dreadnaught Mariners.
“We’re through feeling sorry for ourselves; that’s in the past,” said Scott Servais, halfway between a bluster and a lament. The Mariners manager has been holding something of a big-league tryout camp in the middle of the season, burning through dozens of Orca cards on the train between AAA Tacoma and Safeco Field.
Expect another transaction or two Friday. No one knows yet whether Cruz or Segura are headed for the disabled list, but certainly by the start of a three-game series against Tampa, someone else will catch a finger in a car door or find an alligator, too late, in a toilet.
“Hopefully, (Cruz and Segura) are day-to-day,” Servais said, more resignation than conviction in his voice. Cruz, with 42 RBIs, was hit in the third inning, and took his base but not his next at-bat.
Segura, hitting .341, was not as fortunate in the fourth inning. Trying to advance to second on a sacrifice fly that scored Ben Gamel, he was out when 3B Nolan Arenado cut off the throw home and fired to 2B D.J. LeMahieu. Segura jammed into the bag and didn’t get up right away. He had to be helped off the field.
The enveloping dread consumed some of the optimism from Wednesday, when starter James Paxton came back from the overloaded crypt to pitch the biggest part of a shutout — the Mariners lead MLB with six — in a 5-0 win. He was the first of four injured starters to return and he did it without a ramp-up — three hits and six strikeouts in 5.1 innings.
Paxton’s return was urgent, but now it seems likely fresh leaks must be bubble-gummed.
Taylor Motter brought his .209 average from left field to play shortstop, where he seems likely to be for awhile. Little-used rookie Boog Powell and his .235 average stepped in for Cruz. The drop in talent is precipitous.
“Injures we can do nothing about,” said Servais, for the umpteenth time. But on another front, the bullpen, the Mariners beheld a wicked-good performance from long man Casey Lawrence, setting a club relief record nine strikeouts in five innings. He beat by one the mark of Julio Mateo 14 years ago and was MLB’s first reliever to nine Ks since the Yankees’ David Phelps in 2013.
Designated for assignment May 8 by Toronto, where he spent eight seasons, Lawrence was picked up by the Mariners May 11 and made his debut May 18. He threw 86 pitches (52 strikes) starting in the fourth inning in relief of the fading Yovani Gallardo. The performance suggested Lawrence may be starting material, particularly after Gallardo ghas given up 15 runs in his past 15.1 innings, including five in three Thursday.
“He has started before for the Blue Jays,” Servais said of Lawrence. “This is probably the best stretch of success he’s had in the big leagues, getting people out using all three of his pitches.
“But we have to get Gallardo back on track, doing what he does — getting us six innings and keeping us in the ballgame. It just hasn’t happened the last couple times.”
Keeping things on track is something that has rarely happened this season. A club-record amount of personnel changes has been largely crippling, although the four-game winning streak was a rose upon the slag heap.
Now all they have to do is replace their two most productive hitters. It finally stopped raining in Seattle last week, except for one patch of green in Sodo.