Here is the Mariners’ new reality, the one in which manager Scott Servais is vowing to become Capt. Hook in regard to his rotation. It is a plan that, consequently, means he must find a way to navigate those extra innings.
It didn’t go well Friday in a numbing 6-5 loss to the Los Angeles Angels in which the Mariners blew a four-run lead at Safeco Field.
"Where we’re at right now, pitching-wise," Servais said, "it’s going to be a challenge. There are going to be some nights that it works out great. And there will be other nights when it’s a little bit tough."
Let’s work through the plan and how it unraveled.
Lefty starter Marco Gonzales had permitted one run while throwing just 64 pitches Friday night when the Angels put runners at first and second with one out in the fifth inning.
But the LA lineup was turning over with six straight right-handed batters due up. Servais went to the bullpen for right-hander Emilio Pagan, who squelched the threat by retiring Cameron Maybin and Mike Trout.
"I thought Gonzales threw the ball really well," Servais said. "We wanted to get him through the lineup twice. He was in a little trouble there in the (fifth). Pagan was our guy to get us out of trouble."
The Mariners took the lead later in the inning on Mike Zunino’s mammoth two-run homer and then turned to rookie right-hander Andrew Moore, recalled earlier in the day, to protect the lead.
"You’ll see some guys coming up from Tacoma to help us out," Servais said, "and they’re going to pitch. They’re going to be in those long spots. That’s where we’re at right now in our starting pitching.
"Coming into the ballgame, we knew that Andrew Moore was going to pitch in this game. Hopefully, we’d have the lead, and we did have the lead."
Moore worked around a leadoff single in the sixth and had a 5-1 lead when he took the mound in the seventh. He gave it all back when the Angels struck for four two-out runs.
James Pazos replaced Moore and held the tie by getting the final out with runners at second and third.
Question: Why the quick hook on Gonzales and not for Moore?
"Obviously, we were limited tonight in what was available in our bullpen," Servais said. "No Eddie Diaz. Trying to only use Nick Vincent in the situation as the closer. Tony Zych was down tonight. No Casey Lawrence tonight."
The game slipped away in the ninth inning when shortstop Jean Segura couldn’t handle a short-hop grounder with one out and runners at first and second. Instead of a possible inning-ending double play, the winning run scored on the error.
The loss dropped the Mariners to 59-58 and left them one-half game behind Minnesota (58-56) in the race for the American League’s final wild-card berth. They are one of six teams within three games of the Twins.
"There will be a lot of decisions made that you may scratch your head at," Servais said, "but there is a plan behind it. Tonight, I think the plan was lined up right. We just didn’t get the last out there in the seventh inning."
Three takeaways from Friday’s loss:
***Little to show: The early returns on the trade to acquire Yonder Alonso — which seemed to address a need the Mariners didn’t have; i.e., production at first base — couldn’t be much worse.
Alonso is 1-for-14 in four games after going hitless in four at-bats while also grounding into two inning-ending double plays with Robinson Cano on deck and Nelson Cruz in the hole.
Danny Valencia, the former full-time first baseman, is batting .268 with 13 homers and 59 RBIs in 105 games while playing strong defense. He’s been sitting.
***Cruzing with a bruising: Designated hitter Nelson Cruz rocked a home run in the second inning — his eighth in 11 games — and yanked a double past third base in the fourth inning. But his most impressive at-bat came in the sixth.
Cruz fell into an 0-2 hole against LA starter Ricky Nolasco and fouled a ball off his right toe that had him hobbling around and prompted a visit from the trainer.
But Cruz remained in the game and worked the count to 3-2 before lining an RBI double off the right-field wall. He advanced to third on a fly to center by beating Mike Trout’s throw, which allowed him to score on Jarrod Dyson’s two-out single.
That gave the Mariners a 5-1 lead.
***Gamel in a slide: It was only late June when the only thing preventing outfielder Ben Gamel from leading the American League in batting was a lack of plate appearances.
Well, Gamel now has more than the requisite number of plate appearances but he’s mired in a dreadful slump. He is batting .218 in 35 games since July 1 after going hitless in four at-bats.
Gamel’s average is down to .298 or 65 points behind league-leader Jose Altuve.
Bob Dutton: @TNT_Mariners