In the search for positives on Saturday night, the Seattle Mariners did score a run.
So there’s that.
But it mattered little because the Los Angeles Angels scored five, leaving Mariners manager Eric Wedge winless in his return to the team.
Seattle’s offense, which in recent seasons has been neither potent nor consistent, has been nearly nonexistent since returning to Safeco Field.
The Mariners have scored one run in the last 19 innings, which includes 16 straight scoreless innings. Those few weeks in July, when the Mariners had a productive offense, are fading faster than memories of past postseason appearances.
“There wasn’t much to talk about offensively,” Wedge said. “We didn’t do much. We spread out some hits there and there, but we never really put anything together.”
It’s not as though Seattle faced Cy Young-level pitching from the Angels in the last two games.
On Friday night, talented but erratic starter Garrett Richards threw 7 shutout innings, and on Saturday former Mariners starter Jason Vargas threw six scoreless innings before surrendering a run.
That run was far from dramatic. With the Mariners down 3-0, Humberto Quintero led off the seventh with a single to left. Dustin Ackley advanced Quintero to third with a single to right. Wedge called on Nick Franklin, who had been out of the starting lineup for the past three games because of a knee injury, to pinch hit for Brendan Ryan. Franklin was able to score Quintero with a sharp ground out to left side.
But that was it. For the night. For the weekend, so far.
“I’ve only been back for a couple days, but I haven’t been pleased with what I’ve seen with our approach up there,” Wedge said. “When we are good, we are hitting fastballs. We were fouling fastballs back and swinging through pitches. I thought we did a lot of chasing today on breaking balls out of the zone. That’s not a good combination – missing fastballs and chasing breaking balls out of the zone.”
It’s what the Mariners weren’t doing in July, when they averaged 5.2 runs a game while hitting .264 with 35 homers and a .772 on-base plus slugging (OPS) percentage. Saturday night, they were 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position and stranded nine runners.
“I know we are better than that,” Wedge said. “We are deep enough in the season that we should be better than that. We are a lot better than what we’ve seen these last couple of nights.”
Because of the recent offensive struggles, the Mariners were in trouble from the very beginning.
Seattle starter Erasmo Ramirez issued a one-out walk to Erick Aybar and then hung a change-up to Mike Trout – one of the last hitters a pitcher would want to do such a thing to.
Last season’s American League Rookie of the Year and MVP runner-up crushed the pitch, hitting a majestic blast over the wall in center field for his 22nd second home run to give the Angels a 2-0 lead.
“It was in the middle of the plate,” Ramirez said. “I was ahead in the count and I can’t make that mistake to a great hitter. There isn’t chance he’s going to miss it. And he didn’t.”
But Ramirez didn’t fall apart. He came back and worked five scoreless innings and into the seventh inning. He got a little help from his defense. In the second inning, Endy Chavez robbed Hank Conger of what appeared to be a solo home run with a leaping grab over the wall in right field.
“I saw the ball and I saw the fence, too, and I was thinking about climbing the wall,” said Chavez, who also had three hits on the night. “But I saw that with a jump I could make the catch and that’s what I did.”
Unfortunately for Chavez, he also cost Ramirez a run in the seventh inning.
Ramirez appeared to have worked himself out of a jam, getting Trout to loft a fly ball with two outs and a runner on third. Chavez and center fielder Dustin Ackley converged on the ball. Chavez called for it, with Ackley having little chance to get there, but couldn’t make the running catch. The ball hit the heel of his glove and bounced out allowing the run to score.
“There’s no excuse,” Chavez said. “I got to that point. I have to make that catch.”
There aren’t any excuses for the Mariners’ offense either.
Even in the seventh, when they scored, there was a chance to get more. Ackley was on third with one out and the defense was playing back willing to give up the run for an out.
But Brad Miller struck out, Kyle Seager was hit by a pitch and Kendrys Morales struck out – inning over.
The lead got pushed to 5-1 in the eighth inning. Wedge called on long reliever Brandon Maurer, who started the inning by giving up a single to Mark Trumbo, a triple to Kole Calhoun and a single to Chris Nelson as two runs came across.
“We just can’t keep going to (Yoervis) Medina and (Danny) Farquhar,” Wedge said. “We need to use these other guys too. Maurer has enough stuff to pitch anywhere in the ballgame.”
The runs Maurer surrendered mattered little because the Mariners are scoring little.
Vargas got the win to improve to 7-5 with a 3.77 earned-run average. Ramirez was saddled with his first loss, falling to email@example.com 253-597-8483 blog.thenewstribune.com/mariners @RyanDivish