A blah performance from the Mariners in a 5-3 loss to the Cincinnati Reds on Sunday — and no sugarcoating from manager Scott Servais.
“Day game after a night game,” he said. “It was just one of those games. We were a little dead today. We didn’t swing the bat that well.”
Mariners starter Nathan Karns gave up three runs over four innings in his third start. All three scored on back-to-back homers in the third by Zack Cosart and Jack Cave.
“I thought I was cruising through the third,” Karns said, “until I had back-to-back home runs hit off me. That just shows you; you have to execute your pitches throughout the whole inning.”
Karns breezed through the first two innings in order, but gave up a one-out single in the third before finding major two-out problems: Cosart and Cave hit successive boomers on four-seam fastballs for a 3-0 Cincinnati lead.
“He kind of lost the feel for his command,” Servais said. “The ball got up in the third inning, and he just wasn’t as sharp after that.”
The Mariners (7-6) countered later in the inning on Boog Powell’s two-run single with two outs.
Joe Wieland worked a scoreless fifth after replacing Karns, but paid for a two-out walk in the sixth when Jordan Pacheco pulled an RBI double into the left-field corner, and Ivan DeJesus followed with an RBI single.
The Mariners got one run back in the eighth, but left the tying run on base.
PLAY OF THE GAME: Karns escaped a one-out jam with a runner on third in the fourth inning when shortstop Luis Sardinas turned De Jesus’ line drive into a double play.
PLUS: Nori Aoki had two hits and a walk in his three plate appearances. … Reliever Blake Parker continues to make a quiet push for a Seattle bullpen job. He worked a scoreless ninth and has not allowed a run in his four appearances.
MINUS: The Mariners pulled minor league shortstop Drew Jackson after a sloppy defensive play that cost a base. … Minor league outfielder Tyler O’Neill finally made an out when he struck out to start the ninth. He was 3 for 3 with a homer and five RBIs prior to that at-bat.
STAT PACK: Nelson Cruz is hitless in 13 spring at-bats, but he played seven innings in right field. Good test for his sore knee.
“Timing issues,” Servais said. “He didn’t play for the first three or four games. He’s a little behind, but he’s healthy. He’s fine. He’s just got to get his timing down.
“He’s not swinging at great pitches right now, either.”
QUOTABLE: “For the most part, I’m pretty happy,” Karns said. I was able to locate my pitches. I only had one walk today. That’s something I’m very proud of.
“Walks are my Achilles’ heel. Last year, I think a majority of them scored. If I can keep the walks (down) and really make hitters earn it in this camp, I think I’ll be fine.”
UP NEXT: The Mariners play their second split-squad doubleheader in three days on Monday but, unlike Saturday, both games will start at 1:10 p.m.
Felix Hernandez makes his spring debut in the game against Colorado at Peoria Stadium, while Taijuan Walker will start against Arizona at Salt River Fields in Scottsdale.
The game in Peoria — Hernandez’s game — will be shown on Root Sports. The Mariners will face Colorado’s Tyler Chatwood and Arizona’s Zack Greinke.
Bob Dutton: @TNT_Mariners