SAN DIEGO – The end of the interleague portion of the season couldn’t come soon enough for the Seattle Mariners.
After years of success against National League opponents – particularly their “natural rivals,” the San Diego Padres – the Mariners struggled in interleague play this season.
With Sunday’s unremarkable 2-0 loss to the Padres, the Mariners finished with an 8-10 record against NL opponents this season. It snapped a streak of 12 consecutive seasons the Mariners were .500 or better during interleague play. Only the New York Yankees had a longer streak (15 seasons and counting).
Worse, Sunday’s loss meant the Mariners (31-43) went 1-5 against the Padres, who have the second-worst record in big league baseball at 25-47.
As bad as the Mariners have been at Safeco Field, they are ready to get home and play games with a designated hitter.
“I’m looking forward to getting back home and getting another bat in the lineup,” Mariners manager Eric Wedge said. “I’m just looking forward to getting home and playing some good baseball.”
It wasn’t as if the Mariners were awful while going 2-4 on this six-game trip with stops in Arizona and San Diego.
With the exception of what Padres starter Edinson Volquez and the San Diego bullpen did to them Sunday, the Mariners hit on the trip. They batted .276 with 18 extra-base hits, scoring 33 runs.
However, starting pitching failed the Mariners for much of the trip.
It was the reverse Sunday.
Hector Noesi, who’s been inconsistent, gave the Mariners a solid effort. The 25-year-old right-hander pitched six innings, giving up two runs on seven hits while striking out six and walking three. Noesi showed better focus, not allowing hits in 0-2 and 1-2 counts.
“I thought Hector threw the ball better today,” Wedge said. “He was much more consistent with everything. He repeated his delivery, he was down (in the strike zone), did a better job with two strikes, mixed all his pitches. They made him work a little bit, too. I was really pleased with the way he pitched today.”
The runs allowed by Noesi came in the fourth inning when he loaded the bases with no outs. After working himself into serious trouble, Noesi escaped by catching Cameron Maybin’s line drive back at the mound just inches from his face.
“It was quick, man,” Noesi said. “When you are out there pitching, you don’t know what’s going to happen. It can be scary.”
On his next pitch – the first to second baseman Alexi Amarista – it got ugly.
Listed at 5-foot-7, but closer to 5-4, the left-handed hitting Amarista went with a fastball and drove it deep to left field.
Mariners left fielder Casper Wells, who was playing shallow, couldn’t get back in time. The ball bounced off the warning track over the wall for a ground-rule double to drive in two runs. If it stayed in the park, it could have cleared the bases.
“He (usually) doesn’t do that, but he got a good piece of it,” Wells said. “So I just had to turn and run. I was playing pretty shallow on him. I played it like it was going to slice, but it stayed pretty true and I wasn’t able to catch up to it.”
The odds of Amarista hitting the ball like that were slim.
“Bases loaded with a guy like that, you’ve got to take your chance,” Wells said. “If he gets a good piece like that, that’s what you’re forced to deal with. You can’t have one fall in and have two runs score there. Unfortunately, that’s the way it fell.”
Noesi managed to keep the damage at two runs, striking out Volquez and getting Will Venable to foul out to end the inning.
Too bad his teammates weren’t providing much offense. They managed five hits, and Noesi – of all people – had two.
“To get shut out – I don’t know how many hard-hit balls we had, but it was quite a few,” Wedge said. “Especially early on, really, up and down the lineup. I felt like we had some real good ABs, and we made Volquez work.”
Four Padres pitchers combined on the shutout, but Volquez was the best. He started and threw 62/3 innings, allowing four hits, striking out four and walking three. He never allowed Mariners hitters to get comfortable.
“That’s what he does,” first baseman Justin Smoak said. “Guy throws 95 miles per hour and he doesn’t really throw it. He throws (his) change-up and curveball in and out and keeps you off balance.”
The Mariners open a 10-game homestand today, starting with the Oakland A’s. Despite having a 12-19 record at Safeco Field and the worst hitting statistics at home in the majors – a .202 batting average, .283 on-base percentage and a .304 slugging percentage – the Mariners are glad the trip is over.
“Just to get back home will be good,” Smoak said. “We’ll be at home for a while. Hopefully we can turn it around at home.”firstname.lastname@example.org