Mariner starter Brandon Maurer said he’s never felt better mentally than he did before Thursday’s game against the Angels.
“I felt calm,” he said. “There wasn’t as much anxiety as normal. Heart rate stayed down pretty well.”
Later, he characterized his seventh start of the season this way: “Today was definitely a good improvement. Numbers might not show it, but I felt a lot better than I ever have out there.”
Indeed, the numbers didn’t show it as Maurer labored once again in a 7-5 loss to the Angels in front of 11,657 at Safeco Field. Maurer lasted only four innings and gave up five runs, including four with two outs in the fourth inning.
The cold facts for Maurer this season are not flattering.
He has started seven games and made it past the fifth inning only once. He has given up less than two runs only twice. And he now hauls around a cumbersome 7.52 ERA.
Manager Lloyd McClendon said he and general manager Jack Zduriencik would talk about what the Mariners would do with Maurer. Erasmo Ramirez has been inconsistent since being demoted to Class AAA Tacoma, and Taijuan Walker is still a couple rehab starts away from joining the Mariners.
“When you look at options, you have to sit down and make sure you have a viable option,” McClendon said. “That’s something Jack and I will talk about and see where we go from here and see if there’s something we can do to straighten him out.”
McClendon dangled the keys to success for Maurer before the first pitch: Command the strike zone, and the quality of Maurer’s pitches would do the rest. Maurer responded by walking the first batter of the game.
He walked a hitter in each of his four innings and couldn’t avoid the game-altering blow.
Maurer had a runner on third with two outs in the fourth inning, but he gave up a single to Grant Green to drive in one run. He then walked a batter before giving up the kill shot: a three-run homer to Erick Aybar that put the Angels up 5-0.
“I thought he was going to put together a good game early on,” McClendon said, “but the fourth inning got him. That two-out bug got him again.”
Maurer said he hasn’t lost confidence in himself and said he is handling his struggles just fine. But he acknowledged that although he seems to pitch fine early, he tends to hit a rough patch later.
“And then it just kind of falls apart at some point,” he said. “I’ll put one together at some point.”
The Mariners offense, which was without Robinson Cano for the first time this season because he wasn’t feeling well, couldn’t climb out of Maurer’s hole.
Michael Saunders hit a two-run homer in the fourth inning, and he added another RBI on a sacrifice fly in the sixth inning. Saunders hit in Cano’s third spot in the order. It was his third homer of the season.
“Knock on wood,” McClendon said, “I think he’s starting to turn the page and become a pretty darn good major-league player.”
Kyle Seager added a two-run homer in the ninth inning to make the finish somewhat interesting, but Stefen Romero popped out and Dustin Ackley struck out to end the game.
The Angels had 15 hits and left 12 runners on base. By comparison, the Mariners had six hits and stranded two runners.
“We had a deep hole to climb out of today, and we came close,” McClendon said. “We just didn’t get it done.”