Nelson Cruz went deep again Wednesday night. That makes six homers in five games and at least one in five consecutive games. And the good news pretty much ends there for the Seattle Mariners.
The Los Angeles Dodgers roughed up Taijuan Walker for three runs in the first inning and completed a three-game sweep over the Mariners with a 5-2 victory at Dodger Stadium.
Sure, the script changed for the finale. The Mariners built early multi-run leads Monday and Tuesday before allowing the Dodgers to scramble back for a pair of 6-5 walk-off victories.
This time, it was the Dodgers in control early. And no real counter-punch by Seattle — in part because of stunning mental lapse by Robinson Cano while the Mariners were mounting a rally in the sixth inning.
“Any time you lose, it’s ugly,” manager Lloyd McClendon said. “Tonight, we got in the way of our talent. No question about it.”
So, yes, Cruz’s homer and little else on the plus side.
Walker (0-2) gave up five runs and six hits in four innings before exiting for a pinch hitter. That makes two rocky starts for Walker after a winning a rotation spot with a dominant spring.
“He’s not the only one,” McClendon said. “I’m not going to pick on that kid, but if you ask me if I’m concerned with our starting pitching, yes. We’ve got to get better. We’ve got to get deeper in ballgames.”
It also meant a beleaguered bullpen had to chew up four more innings. The rotation averaged just five innings per game on a 2-4 trip through Oakland and L.A. that included three extra-inning games.
“We’ve got a real good bullpen,” McClendon said, “but they won’t be worth a darn if we keep running them out there. We’ve got to get better efforts from our starters.”
Cruz got his homer by driving a 1-1 slider from Brett Anderson over the center-field wall with two outs in the fourth inning. In doing so, Cruz became fifth player in franchise history to hit homers in five consecutive games.
Jay Buhner did it twice (1995, ’96). Richie Zisk did it in 1981, and Alex Rodriguez did it in 1999. Ken Griffey Jr. had an eight-game run in 1993.
Cruz’s homer cut the Dodgers’ lead to 5-1.
“When I hit the ball the other way,” Cruz said, “is when I’m feeling real good.”
The Mariners drew closer in the sixth after loading the bases with no outs, which knocked Anderson out of the game. In came Paco Rodriguez, who retired Kyle Seager on a run-scoring grounder to first.
Then it got strange.
When Logan Morrison drew a walk, Cano began trotting home — as if the bases had been loaded. He realized his mistake too late and was thrown out before he could scramble back to third.
Asked if it was the dumbest thing he’d ever done, Cano answered, “I would say yes. I felt in that situation, I was the dumbest guy in the game. There are no excuses for that.”
Mike Zunino’s grounder to third resulted in a force at second that ended the inning.
Anderson (1-0) worked the necessary five innings for the victory before Rodriguez, Chris Hatcher, Pedro Baez and J.P. Howell closed out the L.A. sweep.
The Mariners, at 3-6, now have an open date Thursday to regroup before opening a nine-game homestand Friday with the first of three weekend games against Texas.
“(Thursday) should be good,” Cruz said. “A day to freshen your mind and start fresh on Friday. I think everybody needs a day off.”
Walker appeared in no real difficulty in the first inning with a runner at first and two outs before a walk to Tuesday hero Howie Kendrick set up a big inning.
It was Kendrick’s two-run single Tuesday that provided the Dodgers with a 6-5 walk-off victory. This time, he extended the inning for Andre Ethier, who drove an RBI single to left.
Anything close to a good throw by left fielder Rickie Weeks makes for an interesting play at the plate. As it was, Yasmani Grandal scored easily.
Scott Van Slyke followed with a two-run double over Weeks’ head and, that quickly, the Mariners were in a 3-0 hole.
“I feel like I just didn’t establish my fastball enough,” Walker said. “It’s frustrating. Really frustrating.”
There was a lot of that coursing through the Mariners’ clubhouse as they packed up for the trip back to Seattle.
Looking back at his lapse, Cano said, “I wish they could have thrown me over left field. Those are the things that make you feel embarrassed, especially when you’ve been in the game so long.
“I told the manager, it’s my fault. I should pay attention.”