With Felix Hernandez finally pitching like an ace and All-Star Nelson Cruz bashing another home run, the Mariners defeated Oakland 4-0 Sunday (box) to avoid what would have been their nadir week of the season. As it was, they went 2-5 on a seven-game home stand, reaching the All-Star break with a 43-47 record. More important: Seattle lost 2.5 games in the wild card race and will need to leapfrog five teams over the final 72 to make the playoffs for the first time in 16 years. Doable, not likely.
Monday (Royals 3, Mariners 1): Mike Moustakas and Alex Gordon homered and Ian Kennedy allowed one run over seven innings as the Royals handed the Mariners (41-43) their fifth consecutive loss at Safeco Field.
Tuesday (Royals 7, Mariners 3): Whit Merrifield hit the first pitch of the game from Hernandez for a home run, Moustakas added his 24th homer of the season.
Wednesday (Royals 9, Mariners 6): The Mariners overcame a 4-0 deficit to lead 6-4, but the Royals tied it at 6. In the 10th, Salvador Perez delivered a two-run homer and Gordon added a two-out RBI single as the Royals completed a sweep.
Thursday (Athletics 7, Mariners 4): Khris Davis hit a three-run homer and former Seattle farmhand Paul Blackburn pitched one-run ball into the eighth for his first major league victory. The Mariners traded Blackburn to the A’s during the off-season for Danny Valencia, who hit a three-run homer in the ninth.
Friday (Mariners 7, Athletics 2): Cruz drove in a season-high five runs while belting his milestone 300th career homer, and James Paxton allowed two hits over seven innings as the Mariners snapped an eight-game home skid.
Saturday (Athletics 4, Mariners 3): Ryon Healy bounced a ground-rule RBI double to right-center with two outs in the ninth to give the A’s the win after 36-year-old Oakland right hander Chris Smith, just summoned from AAA Nashville, pitched six solid innings in his first major league start. Edwin Diaz gave up an infield single to Rajai Davis to open the ninth before allowing the double to Healy.
Sunday (Mariners 4, Athletics 0): Hernandez held Oakland to two hits over six innings while fanning a season-high eight and Cruz blasted a two-run homer in the fourth for a series split. After Hernandez (4-3, 4.44) departed, three Seattle relievers combined to toss three hitless innings.
Houston’s 19-1 win over Toronto Sunday meant the Mariners found themselves further behind at the All-Star break only twice in their history: 1988, when they trailed the division leader by 19.5, and 1992, when they lagged by 18.
Even with Sunday’s win over last-place Oakland, the Mariners have dropped 10 of 14 since June 23, when they were a season-high two games above .500 at 39-37. But give the 60-21 Astros credit: In the past quarter-century, only the 2001 Mariners (63-24) reached the All-Star break with a better record.
Innings of the week
Royals 4th Tuesday: The Royals scored three times in the fourth on Moustakas’ two-run homer and a two-out error by Cano that allowed Brandon Moss to score. Perez had a two-run double and the five earned runs were the most permitted by Hernandez in his eight starts.
Royals 10th Wednesday: With the score 6-6, Eric Hosmer hit into a fielder’s choice and Perez followed with home run off James Pazos. Gordon’s RBI single off Nick Vincent sealed Kansas City’s 9-6 win.
Athletics 5th Thursday: Trailing 3-0, Seattle starter Sam Gaviglio allowed a single to Marcus Semien and then walked Yonder Alonso before surrendering a homer to Davis, giving Oakland a 7-0 lead.
Mariners 8th Friday: After collecting RBI singles in the first and third innings, Cruz bashed his 300th career homer in the eighth, a three-run shot off Liam Hendricks.
Good week/Bad week
Good: During the seven-game home stand, Jean Segura went 13-for-30 (.433) with three doubles, a home run and four RBIs. Segura produced four hits twice (4-for-5 Tuesday, 4-for-4 Thursday), giving him four, four-hit games this season. Bad: Thursday the Athletics tagged Gaviglio for seven runs on nine hits in 4.2 innings, handing him his third consecutive loss. Friday, Gaviglio was out of the rotation and back in Tacoma.
Not in the box score
- Andrew Moore worked eight innings in his second career start Monday. He allowed five hits and struck out three, becoming only the third pitcher in franchise history to throw at least seven innings in the first two starts of a career, joining Erik Hanson (four games from Sept. 5-21, 1988) and Enrique Romo (two games, April 7 and 12, 1977).
- Segura, who has already logged a month on the DL, lacks the necessary plate appearances to qualify for batting leader boards. He hit the break with a .349 average, which would lead the American League. A Mariner has not led the AL in batting at the All-Star break since Ichiro hit .352 in 2003.
- In his start Tuesday, Hernandez’s five strikeouts made him the 50th pitcher in MLB history to reach 2,300 strikeouts. With eight strikeouts Sunday, Hernandez padded his career total to 2,310, surpassing Juan Marichal for 49th place. Next: No. 48 Rube Waddell, 2,316.
- The Mariners had four singles Monday and eight more Tuesday. That marked the first time Seattle went consecutive games without an extra base hit since Aug. 31 and Sept. 1, 2013.
- On Wednesday, with his 26th multi-hit game of the season, rookie Ben Gamel officially became the American League’s leading batter with a .335 average, a tick ahead of Houston’s Jose Altuve (.334). It didn’t last: Gamel slumped, reaching the break hitting .323, fourth in the league.
- Mike Zunino’s 12th home run, which he hit in the second inning Wednesday, matched his total for 2016. That was Zunino’s only highlight of the week — or the month, for that matter. After hitting 10 homers and driving in 31 runs in June (franchise records for a catcher), Zunino is batting .087 (2-for-23) in July (he did not play Sunday).
- The fifth-inning home run by Oakland’s Davis Thursday was his 10th against Seattle in the past season and a half.
- Oakland’s win Thursday gave Bob Melvin his 500th victory as manager of the Athletics. Melvin managed the Mariners in 2003-04.
- Cruz became the seventh player to record a 300th career homer while wearing a Seattle uniform.
- With two more Sunday, Cruz leads the American League in RBIs with 70. This marks the fourth time in club history that a Mariner has entered the break with at least a share of the RBI lead: Ken Griffey Jr. (T1, 84 in 1997), Edgar Martinez (1st, 87 in 2000), and Bret Boone (T1, 84 in 2001). Cruz is the seventh Mariner to drive in 70 runs by the All-Star break and the first since Raul Ibanez (70) in 2006.
- The Mariners have out-hit opponents by a double-digit margin six times, most in the AL and tied with the Miami Marlins for most in the majors.
- With Cano added to the All-Star team as an injury replacement, the Mariners will send two position players (also Cruz) to the game for the first time since 2014 when Cano and Kyle Seager represented the club.
- Jarrod Dyson hit his fifth homer of the season Saturday. Prior to this year, he had never hit more than two in a season.
“I’m really impressed with how he kept his composure. He just keeps going after them, attacking, and his ability to make adjustments is huge for a young pitcher. It’s going to serve him well. He’s going to win a lot of games as a Mariner.” – Manager Scott Servais, after Andrew Moore’s outing Monday
“The first three innings I got into a rhythm, but in the fourth and fifth I had a four-pitch walk and they made me pay.” – Felix Hernandez Tuesday
“It’s a critical point in our season right now. It really is. We haven’t played well over the last 10 days or so. We’ve struggled and we’ve got to get it turned around.” – Servais Wednesday
“We’ve got to pick it up — everybody, players, coaches, myself.” – Servais Thursday
“It was special. I came a long way. Not only what I did in baseball, in the minors, where I come from in the Dominican. Never in my dreams did I think about 300 homers in the big leagues.” — Cruz, after his 300th career homer
“I was one pitch away and I missed that slider. I threw a fastball up and in, and he looked back. I was supposed to go with the fastball again, but I decided to throw the slider. I missed in the middle and he hit it pretty good.” – Diaz, after allowing a double to Ryon Healy Saturday in the ninth inning
“Felix really stepped up for us today. That’s absolutely that’s the best we’ve seen him all year. I’m really happy with that. Things hadn’t been going well for him. He’s still got plenty of stuff to be a very effective starting pitcher in this league.” — Servais Sunday
“I’m healthy and feeling good. My mechanics were really good. I really like what I did today. I’m happy.” — Hernandez
Monday: Recalled Moore from AAA Tacoma, optioned RHP Dan Altavilla to the Rainiers; traded AA Arkansas RHP Tyler Herb to San Francisco for cash considerations.
Tuesday: Signed four international free agents, OF Julio Rodriguez of the Dominican Republic, SS Juan Querecuto of Venezuela, LHP Brayan Perez of Venezuela and RHP Yeuri Tatiz of the Dominican Republic.
Friday: Recalled RHP Emilio Pagan from Tacoma, optioned Gaviglio to the Rainiers.
Sunday: Announced that bullpen coach Mike Hampton had tendered his resignation, effective immediately, for family reasons. Hampton was in his second season as bullpen coach.
After the All-Star break,the Mariners begin second-half play Friday with the first of three at the Chicago White Sox. The Mariners then have three at Houston (July 17-19) before returning to Safeco Field July 20 to host the New York Yankees in a four-game set.