Viewed from the long-term perspective, which is what the Mariners are clinging to at this point, it’s possible to see the last few days as a hiccup in a generally upbeat run over the last six weeks.
Yes, closer Edwin Diaz blew a save Wednesday afternoon in crushing 5-4 loss to the Philadelphia Phillies at Safeco Field. Yes, the Mariners just got swept in a a two-game series by baseball’s worst team.
And, yes, this makes four straight losses that, effectively, erases the momentum built from a six-game winning streak. All true. Also true: the Mariners are 18-12 since late May, and season still isn’t yet half over.
“Very disappointing,” first baseman Danny Valencia said. “I felt we were in control of that game the entire day. That one stings. Tough loss.”
Diaz (2-3) inherited a 4-3 lead to start the ninth inning after two perfect innings from James Pazos and Nick Vincent in relief of Felix Hernandez, who steadied after a three-run third inning.
The Phillies, at that point, didn’t have a hit since the third inning.
Diaz started the ninth by working the count full on Tommy Joseph before going with a fastball, a 98-mph fastball, and… well, let him tell it.
“I missed down and in,” Diaz said. “He was ready for that fastball. Everybody knows what happened. No, it wasn’t a good pitch. I was trying to go down and away. I missed that location completely.
“That was bad, that whole inning (was bad).”
Joseph tied the game with a 373-foot drive to left.
Diaz seemed to steady by striking out the next two hitters before issuing a walk to Cameron Perkins, a .111 hitter, after being ahead 1-2 in the count.
“We talk about grinding out at-bats,” Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said, “and that’s exactly what (Perkins) did.”
A balk by Diaz moved Perkins into scoring position. Diaz didn’t like the pitch call by catcher Mike Zunino but flinched rather than making a standard shake-off move.
It became a crucial mistake when Andrew Knapp lined another fastball into right for an RBI single. The Phillies led 5-4, which is how it ended after Hector Neris blew through the Mariners later in the inning.
“Eddie made some mistakes today in executing and pitch selection,” manager Scott Servais said. “Just not a good day. The balk certainly hurt as well. A disappointing two-game series here with Philadelphia.”
Servais stopped short of a full endorsement when questioned regarding Diaz’s status as the closer.
“We’ll see,” Servais said. “Eddie’s got electric stuff. But in that role, you’ve got to lock it down. He just didn’t get it done today.”
The prelude to Diaz’s collapse offered some encouraging signs.
Hernandez recovered from some early wobbles and finished with a quality start: three runs in six innings.
The Mariners erased a 3-1 deficit by pulling even on homers by Kyle Seager and Valencia in the fourth against Phillies starter Mark Leiter Jr., before Robinson Cano made it 4-3 with a leadoff homer in the fifth.
That’s how it stayed until the ninth.
“We had been playing better,” Servais said. “Certainly, we didn’t put enough separation between us and them today to give us much of a breather. But a one-run game, you’re leading in the ninth, Eddie Diaz out there…
“You feel pretty good about that.”
PLAY OF THE GAME: Shortstop Jean Segura, overshifted to the right side of second base, made a diving stop on Daniel Nava’s leadoff grounder in the fifth inning.
Segura rolled over and made an accurate throw to first for the out but remained on the ground for a moment clutching his right ankle — the one that caused him to miss 18 games because of a high sprain.
Just as trainer Rick Griffin and Servais started onto the field, Cano waved them off. Segura got to his feet, and the game continued.
PLUS: Segura went 3-for-5 and raised his average top .336… Vincent pitched a one-two-three eighth inning and has not allowed a run in 17 appearances this season at Safeco Field… Pazos pitched a one-two-three seventh inning with two strikeouts. It was a nice bounce back after giving up four runs in two-thirds of an inning last Sunday against Houston… Cano and Seager each had two of the Mariners’ 11 hits…Hernandez had five strikeouts, which moved him to 50th place on the MLB all-time list with 2,297. He passed Dwight Gooden (2,293).
MINUS: The Mariners threw away a chance to pad their lead in sixth inning by running into two outs on the bases. Jarrod Dyson, after stealing second, was thrown out in trying to steal third. And with runners at first and second with two outs, Zunino got picked off second…Mitch Haniger was 0-for-4 with three strikeouts. He is batting .230 in 16 games since returning from the disabled list.
STAT PACK: By sweeping the two games, Philadelphia won a road series for the first time since winning two of three against the Mets in New York from April 18-20. The Phillies were 0-9-1 in their previous 10 road series.
QUOTABLE: Asked specifically whether Diaz would get the ball if Friday’s game at Anaheim provides a save situation in the ninth inning, Servais said: “I would assume so, yes. That’s kind of how we’re built.”
SHORT HOPS: The Mariners kept right-handed reliever Pat Light to Triple-A Tacoma on an outright assignment after he cleared waivers. The move creates an opening on the club’s 40-man roster. Light has appeared in two games for the Rainiers since being obtained from Pittsburgh in a June 17 waiver claim… Ricardo Pinto pitched three scoreless innings and got his first major-league victory… Former Mariners farmhand Ty Kelly hit a two-run homer against Hernandez in the Phillies’ three-run third inning.
ON DECK: The Mariners have an open date Thursday before starting a three-game weekend series at 7:07 p.m. Friday against the Angels at Anaheim.
Right-hander Sam Gaviglio (3-2 with a 3.38 ERA) will face Los Angeles right-hander Parker Bridwell (2-0, 2.95) in the series opener.
The game can be seen on Root Sports Northwest and heard on 710 ESPN and the Mariners Radio Network.
Bob Dutton: @TNT_Mariners