The road trip is finally over, but will the losing end?
The Mariners believe it will. They’ve said all the things they are supposed/expected to say as the losing streak went from four to five and now six games.
“It’s alright, we’ll get out of this,” said reliever Tom Wilhelmsen, who took the loss. “We are a much better team than this. There is no other way to feel either. We know what we have going here. It’s just a bump in the road.”
They aren’t panicking. They aren’t pressing. But they also aren’t playing well. And until they do, it won’t matter. They might stop the losing streak, but they won’t have many winning streaks.
Manager Lloyd McClendon won’t admonish his team or criticize his players. But he was relatively frank after Sunday’s loss.
“The only way we are going to snap out of this if our guys start performing a little better,” McClendon said. “It was a great game, but we had some opportunities to get some things done and we just didn’t do it.”
Watching this team enough, you knew that a 2-0 lead early wouldn’t be enough. Not with a bullpen that overworked.
In the eighth inning, talented rookie Christian Yelich led off with a double off the left-field fence off of Charlie Furbush. McClendon went to right-hander Tom Wilhelmsen to get out of the inning. Wilhelmsen got Marcell Ozuna to fly out and then intentionally walked the ultra-dangerous Giancarlo Stanton.
But Wilhelmsen’s next walk wasn’t intentional. He issued a free pass to Casey McGehee, not getting called strikes on a couple borderline pitches that McClendon and catcher John Buck felt could have been strikes.
“I was wanting to keep the ball low to get the double play,” Wilhelmsen said. “Maybe some guys call them and some guys don’t. I have to look at that and realize he’s not calling them and make an adjustment.”
With bases loaded, Wilhelmsen got Garrett Jones to hit a soft ground ball to first base. Justin Smoak fielded the slow hopper and fired home to try and get the speedy Yelich. Home plate umpire Ed Hickox ruled Yelich out on a force play. But at first glance it looked as though Yelich beat the throw. Marlins manager Mike Redmond appealed and it was overturned. The run counted and the game was tied at 2-2.
“I fielded it and threw it and he must have got a tremendous jump,” Smoak said. “I think that hop gave him time to get there. I fielded it clean enough.”
Wilhelmsen then gave up a sac fly to Adeiny Hechavarria that scored Stanton and gave the Marlins the 3-2 lead.
The Mariners had a good chance to tie it in the ninth. Corey Hart blooped a double into right-center off of Miami closer Steve Cishek to start the inning. Dustin Ackley then hammered a hard ground ball up the middle that seemed like a sure hit. But Hechavarria made a brilliant stop and fired to first to get Ackley. The play did allow pinch runner Brad Miller to move to third.
But most times that would a RBI single.
“That’s what happens when you are in losing streaks like this,” McClendon said. “It could have been a double.”
Still, the Mariners had a runner on third with one out – a simple fly ball would likely be enough. Cishek walked Smoak, but then came back to strike out Nick Franklin for the big second out. McClendon turned to pinch hitter Michael Saunders. Cishek struck him out to end the game and complete the series sweep.
But it shouldn’t have come down to late in the game.
The Mariners had chances to add on to the lead and didn’t. The biggest opportunity came in the seventh when Seattle loaded the bases with two outs and called on pinch hitter Kyle Seager to push a run across. He couldn’t. Marlins reliever Carlos Marmol struck out Seager on three pitches to end the inning.
“We’ll keep searching, keep working on it and hopefully get it right tomorrow night,” McClendon said. “ Our guys are going out and playing hard, but we just haven’t gotten over the hump in the last six days.”
Facing the Houston Astros (5-14 coming into Sunday) at Safeco Field could help them get over that hump. Having Felix Hernandez (3-0, 1.91 ERA) start on Monday helps more. But at this point, there is no reason to think a win over any team is automatic.