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August 15, 2013 at 8:25 PM

Mariners need to keep this trip from getting ugly

With tonight’s loss, the Mariners fell 10 games under .500 and now, the really fun part of this road trip starts with a pair of lefties and Yu Darvish awaiting them in Texas, followed by a visit to an Oakland squad fighting the Rangers for first place.

The Mariners last night seemed about to hand the Tampa Bay Rays a seventh consecutive loss, but Danny Farquhar blew the save and now, 24 hours later, the Mariners blew the game much earlier on by booting the ball around. We can point fingers and name names, which we will, but the bottom line is, the Mariners amassed three hits against Alex Cobb and none when they really needed it.

That was their crack at a right-hander. Now, it’s the lefties they have to face again. At this point, a .500 season is a pipedream and if this trip really goes off the rails, another 90-loss campaign isn’t entirely out of the question.

Realistically, if the Mariners play the way they did the first two games of this series, then 90 losses should not enter the equation, especially with Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma going the next two nights. But if they play like they did tonight, well, like I said, this trip — and season — could get real ugly in a hurry.

It’s not like the Mariners have many softies the rest of the way. Their only real chance for a schedule “breather” comes with four games against the Astros later this month and then three more versus Houston at home Sept. 9-11. Other than that? No cakewalk.

From here on, other than Houston, it’s the Rangers, A’s, Angels, Rangers, Royals, Rays, Cards, Tigers, Angels, Royals and A’s again.

No, that is not a good draw. The Royals are one of the most improved teams of the second half and fighting for a wild card spot, while the Angels — bad as they’ve looked at times — are still the Angels and typically have their fun at Seattle’s expense.

In other words, these Mariners can’t afford more nights like this.

The rebuilding plan has gained back a few fans thanks to the play of young call-ups, but they’ve also had their struggles at times — especially in the field of late.

Nick Franklin came up with the bases loaded in a 1-1 game in the fifth, worked the count full against Alex Cobb, then struck out for the third time in the game. Franklin is being thrown a ton of breaking balls as the league gets to know about him and he’ll have to make adjustments.

He did get an eighth inning single, so that’s progress. But his team was down five runs at the time, so it didn’t help much.

In the bottom of the inning, the Rays erupted for four runs to put the game away and all four came after Franklin and shortstop Brad Miller got crossed up on a pop up towards shallow center. Franklin appeared to call Miller off initially and both backed off at the last instant, allowing the ball to fall in for a hit that put two on with none out.

“The ball was, I think, right at me and I just called it,’’ Franklin said of Sean Rodriguez blooper. “It was just a miscommunication. It happened.’’

Miller said of the play: “It was just a little miscommunication, but you’ve got to have that one.’’

Franklin appeared to call Miller off first.

“I guess he broke on it pretty good and when I looked, he was kind of camped under it,’’ Miller said. “And then I was like ‘Dang! Why’d I call it?’ And then we both backed off.’’

Joe Saunders then allowed a two-run double and a two-run homer and that was the game.

Saunders was clearly not pleased after the game, either with himself or the missed popup.  Asked about a third-inning jam he’d escaped earlier on, he said:

“That one. I was getting outs, the defense was playing good behind me. That was the third inning.”

On the popup, he added:  “That was just one of those turning points in the game where a half-inning before we had the bases loaded and they struck a guy out and gave them momentum. Then we give it right back to them. It was just hard to recover from that. That was pretty much the turning point in the game.”

Mariners interim manager Robby Thompson, also the infield coach, was upset with the non-play and let his infielders know it.

“I think he called for it first,’’ Thompson said of Franklin. “But then maybe Brad (Miller) called for it. But the ball’s got to be caught. For me, Nick’s got to go after that ball. That’s his ball and he’s got to call him off and make the play. And if Brad does call for it, you’d better be sure that he catches it. But that ball’s got to be caught.’’

Thompson later suggested that the inning might not have gone as poorly for Saunders had the play been made.

“It was addressed and it will be talked about again tomorrow,’’ Thompson said. “Those plays, up here, I know they’re growing pains in young players. But that ball’s got to be caught. And they know it. And hopefully, they’ll learn from it and it won’t happen again.’’

There was another defensive non-play in the seventh when a ball was blooped between Franklin and Dustin Ackley. It would have been a spectacular catch for Franklin, but the ball was too deep and really the responsibility of Ackley, who did not appear to get the greatest jump.

Overall, not the greatest way to finish for the Mariners. They began the series a lot better. They’ll have to continue the trip a lot better as well.





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