Miguel Batista, above, looks on stunned as Jamey Carroll (of all people!) rounds the bases on him after his first homer of the year in a five-run ninth inning tonight that turned a once-close game into a rout.
The Mariners have done a great job all season of winning games they had to in order to avoid falling too far behind in the playoff hunt.
But the 9-0 loss here tonight to the Cleveland Indians might have been their undoing.
Never mind the fact that Seattle has scored just four runs in its last three games. Or that the M’s managed zero against the worst team in the American League. Or that they’ll have to face Cliff Lee on Sunday, barely a week after he manhandled the Mariners in Cleveland.
Forget all that and this loss tonight still could not have come at a worse time.
The Angels are about to win again and will move 6 1/2 games up on the Mariners in the AL West. Boston already won and is 5 1/2 games up in the wild-card race.
While the final score tonight looked like a blowout, this was actually a 1-0 game entering the seventh inning. But the Mariners, as they’ve done all season, allowed another starting pitcher off the hook early, then took innings three-through-eight off from an offensive standpoint.
The bottom line is, this team has needed a bat for a long time. There have been patchwork additions here and there to offset injuries, but the bat was needed even before Endy Chavez and Adrian Beltre went down.
That bat never came. Maybe there was never one to be had. We’ll never know. And now, the Mariners have been pushed to the brink.
There is less than a week to go until the trade deadline and a gap of a half-dozen games on two playoff fronts sounds like too much. Seattle could, in theory, whittle that down a bit the next few days, But the team has its work cut out for it. You really do need to win games like these when you’re trying to stay in a playoff race.
The Mariners couldn’t. They simply didn’t have the offense when it mattered and wound up losing by a blowout score.
Ryan Rowland-Smith said afterwards that he was pleased with how he threw the first six innings.
“As long as I’m getting deep into games,” he said. “I felt like I got us into position in that seventh inning down by only one run.”
But then he left a fastball up too high that Travis Hafner buried for a two-run homer. A solo shot by Ben Francisco, on a change-up left too high as well, made it 4-0.
“There were a couple of pitches there that sort of got away from me,” Rowland-Smith said.
Mariners manager Don Wakamatsu agreed that Rowland-Smith, outside of the seventh inning, looked good.
“This guy came out and set the tone early,” he said. “i thought his tempo was great, he had a feel for all his pitches.”
Rowland-Smith escaped a bases-loaded jam in the second with just one run allowed, then didn’t allow another hit until the seventh.
“It was pretty easy until the seventh inning and then two pitches and you’re looking at a three-run ballgame,” Wakamatsu said. “The wheels fell off after that.”
For those of you hoping the team would “sell”, this loss tonight likely pushed the Mariners heavily in that direction. No other way to sugarcoat it. I know the road trip was a success and the M’s have played well for weeks. But they’re running out of time. Decisions have to made within days and there is simply too much ground being put between the Mariners and other contenders. Anything can happen, sure. The M’s can make up three games in three days. And right now, the way things have gone, that’s about what it’s going to take.