Kyle Seager hit a go-ahead, two-out double to right off Joe Nathan in the top of the ninth to give the Mariners a 3-2 lead. Endy Chavez had led off with a single to right, giving the Mariners a leadoff baserunner for the fifth consecutive inning. He was bunted to second base and then — one out later — Nick Franklin walked. Seager fell behind 0-2 in the count, fouled off several pitches, then laced a ball to right.
The Rangers had tied it up off Yoervis Medina in the eighth, with Craig Gentry drawing a walk and then scoring on a double to left by Elvis Andrus.
2:40 p.m.: Yu Darvish walked the leadoff batter for a third straight inning and it again came back to haunt him as Dustin Ackley singled to center off reliever Robbie Ross to the Mariners a 3-2 lead midway through the eighth. Darvish walked Kyle Seager, the gave up a single to Kendrys Morales. Two outs later, Ackley delivered.
Erasmo Ramirez is done for the day, allowing two runs — one earned — on four hits over seven innings. Yoervis Media is now on.
2:23 p.m.: The Rangers tied it in the bottom of the sixth as the Mariners booted the ball around. Kyle Seager juggled a grounder as he attempted to make a throw and the speedy Craig Gentry made it to first safely on the error. Gentry then broke for second on a steal attempt and Humberto Quintero threw the ball into center field, allowing the runner to take third with non out.
Erasmo Ramirez battled back with a strikeout and groundout in which the runner was forced to hold. But Adrian Beltre blooped a single to right field that Endy Chavez got a bad initial read on and tied the game 2-2.
1:48 p.m.: Seattle scored a run in the sixth to take a 2-1 lead thanks largely to a great at-bat by Michael Saunders. Nick Franklin drew a leadoff walk, took second on a wild pitch, then advanced to third on a flyout to right. With two out, Franklin was still on third when Saunders fell behind 1-2 in the count, but hung on through a seven-pitch at-bat. Finally, on the seventh pitch, he doubled to right field to bring the run home.
1:27 p.m.: The Rangers quickly tied it 1-1 in the bottom of the fifth as A.J. Pierzunski doubled to right field, took third on a groundout to the right side and then scored on a sacrifice fly to left by Mitch Moreland.
1:15 p.m.: The Rangers gave the Mariners a run in the fifth inning, messing up on three infield plays to allow a run to cross the plate for a 1-0 Seattle lead. Michael Saunders began the inning with a single to right and then took second as first baseman Mitch Moreland scooped up a grounder by Dustin Ackley. Moreland looked at second base before opting to turn and try for first. But Yu Darvish was a tad slow getting to the bag and Moreland hesitated and wound up not tossing the ball at all.
That left runners at first and second with none out. Saunders then got caught leaning too far off second and was hung-up between bases as catcher A.J. Pierzynski fired to second. Shortstop Jurickson Profar caught the ball, looked over at third, but never threw to Adrian Beltre — who was standing there waiting. Saunders might have shielded Profar’s view of third and prevented the throw, but whatever the reason, Saunders slid in safely.
Endy Chavez then hit a bouncer to first that Moreland caught, then took two steps to his bag for one out. But Moreland also had a clear shot of nailing Saunders as he raced for the plate. Instead, he turned and tried to throw Ackley out at second, but was not successful in turning the double play. So, three miscues and a Seattle run.
1:02 p.m.: Erasmo Ramirez has held his own against Yu Darvish so far in a game that remains scoreless after four innings. Ramirez allowed a leadoff single to Craig Gentry and the Rangers have managed to hit just one ball beyond the infield since — a flyout to center. Ramirez got a double play grounder after Gentry’s hit and other that a walk in the fourth, has not allowed another batter to reach base.
Darvish is doing what he’s supposed to. Michael Saunders and Humberto Quintero are the lone Mariners hitters to reach base, with Saunders lining a single in the second inning and Quitero getting an infield hit in the third. Darvish has four strikeouts thus far.
11:28 a.m.: This Mariners lineup facing Yu Darvish and the Texas Rangers today is interesting, to say the least. No Michael Morse. No Raul Ibanez. In fact, the lineup out there today bears almost no resemblance to the one that the Mariners opened the season with. Only Kyle Seager, Justin Smoak and Kendrys Morales are out there at the positions they were initially pegged for when spring training ended.
We can say that’s a good thing, I suppose, if you’re in to player development and building for some sketchily-designed future. But this lineup today also shows just how meaningless Seattle’s second-half run was a year ago. It was a year ago this week, you’ll recall, that the Mariners were in the midst of winning eight games in a row and talking about how learning to secure such wins would be a key building block for the 2013 season.
Only, it wasn’t. This team today is 10 games under .500. It will have a tough time bettering last year’s 75-win mark, despite 19 games against a Houston squad on-pace to lose 109.
And it’s a Mariners team that looks almost nothing like the one that was winning those eight in a row a year ago. That, my friends, is the very definition of spinning one’s wheels.
The reason Ibanez is out today is to give him a rest and allow Endy Chavez a chance at some game action. Like Brendan Ryan yesterday, you have to use your bench guys once in a while or else they won’t be of much use when you really, really need them.
Morse is sitting because he’s looked awful in the nearly three weeks he’s been back from the disabled list. Pitchers have made adjustments on him and he has yet to respond in kind. He’s chasing the same pitches over and over again and his numbers keep plummeting. This isn’t only a problem for young guys, as we’ve seen with Nick Franklin during his slump. If veteran players don’t make adjustments, pitchers will keep pounding them into the floor with the same stuff they’re vulnerable to.
Morse is a guy the Mariners should have unloaded at the trade deadline, if anybody wanted him. He’s a guy they should look to jettison in August if anybody makes an offer. Trouble is, he isn’t hitting anything right now, so the offers aren’t exactly going to be pouring in.
On the plus side, Kyle Seager and Justin Smoak are in there today, so that’s two young pieces looking like positives as we head on into Year 6 of the “Plan” in 2014. But two guys out of nine isn’t going to cut it. The Mariners, at this stage, need a lot more certainty than that. And little they do from here on in is really going to determine whether they can win when the games matter come 2014.
The games don’t matter in the standings right now. And the Mariners, by and large, are still losing them more than they win.
In other words, without a major change in philosophy by the people guiding this organization, it’s going to be tough for the Mariners to win something that counts anytime soon. A .500 record? That could be possible next year if a few things break right. But that was the line we heard a year ago.
One year later, the song remains the same.