On the bright side, there was the sunshine that made watching baseball at Safeco Field an ideal way for 41,536 fans to spend a perfect day.
So there was that.
Otherwise, nothing went right Wednesday for the Mariners during their 5-0 defeat to the new-look New York Yankees. Between the bruised foot that sidelined third baseman Kyle Seager before the game to the back spasms that put designated hitter Nelson Cruz on the bench in the eighth inning, the homestand finale was a three hour and 18-minute buzzkill.
Manager Scott Servais had reason to figure it would be a tough afternoon when Cruz’s first at-bat found the slugger wincing.
“Back spasms locked up on him,” Servais said afterward. “It was bothering him this morning, but actually started last night. He tried to make it a go, but after the second or third at-bat, it was pointless. It bothered him running.
“He did get some treatment, got it kind of adjusted and feels better. Fingers crossed he’ll be available Thursday.”
With Seager and Cruz ailing, Yankees starter Masahiro Tanaka carved up an overmatched lineup that seemed stuck in a perpetual 0-2 count.
“That’s the idea of pitching,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. “When you get ahead, you can expand. I thought he had to battle early on. His stuff really got good to me in the fourth inning, when he seemed to settle in.”
The Mariners had a few chances to make something happen before Tanaka got into a groove. With Adam Lind on first base in the bottom of the second, Leonys Martin hit a liner to right that missed clearing the wall by inches. What might have been the homer that tied the score at 2-2 was just a single that sent Lind to third, where he was stranded.
“They pitched us well all series,” said Servais, whose team lost its first series of the month. “We haven’t been shut down like that in quite some time. When you don’t score, it’s tough to win.”
Absent run support, starter Hisashi Iwakuma was challenged to duplicate the effort of Tanaka, his Japanese countryman. Iwakuma did what he could to keep the Mariners in the game, but because he had problems keeping his breaking ball down, the right-hander didn’t miss many bats.
The Yankees’ Gary Sanchez set the tone in the first inning, when he launched a two-out homer into the left-field upper deck. In the fifth inning, Sanchez smashed a one-bouncer off Iwakuma that handcuffed third baseman Shawn O’Malley.
By the seventh inning, the Mariners were so tired of Sanchez, who has hit nine homers and six doubles in his first 21 career games, the rookie right-hander was intentionally walked despite the fact he was facing a right-handed pitcher. In the ninth inning, Sanchez took first on a second intentional walk.
“Giving up the solo home run to him was not a good start,” said Iwakuma, whose record fell to 14-9. “I was able to get through six innings and do the least a starting pitcher can do, but overall, it wasn't good production.”
The same could be said for the homestand, which began with two victories over Milwaukee and a three-game sweep virtually certain. But the Mariners blew a 6-1 lead Sunday and have now lost three of their past four.
Prospects are slim for a turnaround series in Chicago, where All-Star Chris Sale will start Friday for the White Sox, followed by fellow lefty Jose Quintana, a 10-game winner, on Saturday.
“We’re in a tough spot in our schedule,” concluded Servais. “Our third baseman was out today and he’s been a big part of our team, and our four-hole hitter is a little banged up. We’re up against it.
“But knowing the guys in this clubhouse and the group around the coaching staff, we’ll show up in Chicago, and we’ll compete and we’ll find a way. We have all year.”