DETROIT — Since victories seem to grow increasingly difficult in this final month of the season, the Seattle Mariners are searching for moral victories in defeat.
The season is lost. Games are being lost. And the end of the season can’t get here soon enough for Mariners fans.
But there are a few positives amidst the gloom.
On Tuesday night, the Seattle bullpen did what it has done far too often this season — give up runs. Meanwhile, the offense also did what it has done so often — failed to score more than a few runs.
And the Mariners did what they’ve done a lot — lose.
This one was a 6-2 setback to the Detroit Tigers at a packed but chilly Comerica Park.
The Tigers went ahead for good in the seventh inning, breaking a 2-2 tie on Torii Hunter’s sacrifice fly off Yoervis Medina.
Down 3-2, the Mariners had a great chance to answer in the top of the eighth inning against a Detroit bullpen that has been as equally dysfunctional.
With one out, Seattle loaded the bases against lefty Phil Coke.
Tigers manager Jim Leyland replaced Coke with lefty Jose Alvarez to face Mike Zunino. The Mariners’ rookie catcher had a good at-bat, seeing 13 pitches from Alvarez. Zunino fouled off third strike pitches five times, but on the 11th pitch, he grounded into an inning-ending 4-6-3 double play.
“He put a great at-bat there,” Mariners manager Eric Wedge said. “He was fighting and fighting and fighting and they ended up turning a heck of a double play there.”
The play at first was close, but Zunino looked to be out by a half step on the replay.
“You have to get in defense mode and just battle,” Zunino said. “In that situation, a ground ball is the last thing I wanted. All I could do is hustle it out.”
The Tigers’ lead ballooned in the eighth when they scored three runs off the duo of Charlie Furbush and Carter Capps to put the game out of reach.
It was the third consecutive loss for the Mariners (66-85), who have lost eight of their past nine games as they limp to the finish line. They have lost 12 out of 16 games in September.
So about those minor victories?
The first was for Seattle starter Brandon Maurer. After starting the season in the rotation, getting demoted to Tacoma, returning to the major leagues, pitching in long relief and now back to being a starter, Maurer had perhaps the best outing of his nomadic season.
He threw five innings, giving up two runs on five hits with two walks and six strikeouts, which tied a season high.
“I thought Maurer was a lot better today, arguably the best start he’s had this year,” Wedge said. “With the time of year and where we are at, with some of the difficulties he’s had prior to this, with some of the lessons he’s learned, with the team he’s playing, I was really impressed.”
Wedge singled out how Maurer kept his emotions in check. He didn’t let them dictate his pace or temperament.
“I was really impressed with the way he kept himself together, the way he slowed himself down and executed pitches,” Wedge said.
Maurer didn’t lose his cool after giving up a solo homer to Don Kelly in the fourth, coolly retiring four of the next five batters.
“He’s just sort of settling in,” Zunino said. “He’s getting comfortable now.”
In the sixth, Maurer gave up an opposite-field homer to Miguel Cabrera, who ripped a fastball over the wall in right field for his 44th of the season.
“(The pitch) was a four-seam up and away,” Maurer said. “That’s the best hitter in baseball right there. It was up and wasn’t on the plate, it was out a little bit. And he took it out (to the opposite field). That’s a good piece of hitting.”
Wedge replaced Maurer with Medina after he gave up a single to Prince Fielder in the next at-bat. But Seattle’s manager said he believed it was progress.
“I felt like the focus and discipline was there for him,” Wedge said. “He didn’t get caught up in the moment.”
The other minor victory was a personal achievement.
With the Mariners trailing 1-0 in the top of the sixth, Raul Ibañez belted his 28th home run of the season off Anibal Sanchez to tie the game. It was just the ninth homer Sanchez has allowed in 1712/3 innings.
“He was really tough tonight,” Ibañez said of Sanchez’s pitching. “At that point, he’d struck me out twice. I was just trying to put the ball in play and I got one in the air.”
The homer tied Ibañez with Barry Bonds (2007) for the second-most home runs hit in a season by a player 40-years-old or older. Ibañez, 41, is one behind Ted Williams, who set the record with 29 in 1960.
The Mariners’ other run came in the seventh inning when Michael Saunders led off with a triple and scored on Kendrys Morales’ pinch-hit double.Ryan Divish: 253-597-8483 firstname.lastname@example.org blog.thenewstribune.com/mariners @RyanDivish