The key to winning on the road, Mariners manager Scott Servais contends, is putting up runs. He believes it’s easier to win low-scoring games at home.
That’s hard to argue after watching the Mariners’ road struggles deepen Friday in a 3-1 loss to the Athletics at the Oakland Coliseum. Both teams got six hits, but two by the Athletics left the yard.
This was a loss that, under normal circumstances, the Mariners should easily be able to shake off. They pitched fairly well, avoided defensive breakdowns but didn’t hit. So they lost. That happens a lot to all clubs.
What magnifies the loss is the Mariners are now 1-8 on the road, and they are 1-8 because they’ve lost at least three games they were well-positioned to win. And this road trip has eight games remaining and each stop, on paper, gets harder.
Three takeaways from Friday’s loss:
***A better Bear: Hisashi Iwakuma allayed some concerns by showing better velocity. It dropped alarmingly in his previous start. So that’s a plus. But Kuma lacked his typically tight command. He pitched behind in the count a lot.
For all that, he gave up three runs in 5 1/3 innings, including one charged to his line after he exited the game. Not great, by any means, but serviceable.
***Too little in the middle: Friday marked the fourth time in nine road games that the Mariners scored fewer than two runs. That happens occasionally? Fine. That happens nearly half the time (OK, 44.4 percent), you’ve got problems.
Servais pointed the finger Friday at the continuing struggles of the club’s potent middle three: Robinson Cano, Nelson Cruz and Kyle Seager.
"Those are our big three," Servais said, "and they know it. They’re pressing a little bit. We’ve got a long trip ahead of us, and we’ve got to have better at-bats. We’ve got to get some results."
***More time for Heredia: Guillermo Heredia started in left field and had two of the Mariners’ six hits. It would be surprising, given the circumstances, if he doesn’t get an extended look over the next several days.
Center fielder Leonys Martin is off to a dreadful start with a .172 on-base percentage. His swing adjustment this spring now appears to be a colossal mistake, and he’s trying to shift back to his former approach.
That might work eventually but, right now, Martin is a mess, and the Mariners, at this point, can’t afford to carry him as a lineup fixture.
Left fielder Jarrod Dyson, who replaced Martin in center on Friday, isn’t performing to expectations, either, but his OBP is a far-more livable .303. Also, a Dyson/Heredia tandem is just as good defensively as Martin/Dyson.
Bob Dutton: @TNT_Mariners