The mantra for the Mariners throughout a disappointing April was that it’s still early, while manager Scott Servais regularly characterized any tough loss as "just one loss."
All that is still true, perhaps, but Tuesday’s 6-4 loss to the Los Angeles Angels in 11 innings at Safeco Field should be setting off some alarm bells. Even if it was just one loss in a still-early season.
The Mariners are now 11-16, including 6-12 against American League West Division opponents and 0-4 against the Angels. The trends aren’t good.
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Three takeaways from Tuesday’s loss:
***The high cost of mistakes: It might be a cliche, but it’s also an enduring truth that success in the big leagues hinges far less on the plays you make than the plays you don’t make. Three examples stand out in Tuesday’s loss.
It wasn’t that right fielder Ben Gamel was unable to make a diving catch on Albert Pujols’ slicing liner in the 11th inning that proved costly. If was Gamel’s poor throw to the relay man that prevents the chance for a play at the plate.
If wasn’t just that reliever James Pazos gave up an RBI double in the 11th inning to Pujols. It was Pazos paying no attention to Pujols on second, which resulted in a steal of third base, which then led to an insurance run.
It wasn’t that shortstop Jean Segura made a throwing error in the fourth inning that led to an unearned run. That’s a physical error. It’s that Segura tried to advance from second to third in the seventh inning on a grounder to short.
***Concerns for Diaz: All closers live on the edge, and Edwin Diaz is no different. Mistakes are magnified because of their importance, and each blown save often expands doubt in geometric proportions.
Diaz was on a roll, prior to Tuesday, after some early-season struggles. Fair or not, concerns returned when he blew a one-run lead with two outs in the eighth inning by surrendering a two-run homer to Kole Calhoun.
A shaky closer affects everybody from the manager on down. Confidence is a fragile thing that doesn’t always factor in the reality of small sample sizes.
Diaz has a 4.35 ERA this season while allowing eight hits (including two homers) and six walks in 10 /13 innings. Those numbers don’t inspire confidence. More important, perhaps, they don’t intimidate the opposition.
The Angels have come back twice against Diaz.
***The Machi Man: While Robinson Cano had three hits, including a two-out RBI single in the ninth that forced extra innings, the biggest positive Tuesday for the Mariners might have been two scoreless innings from veteran Jean Machi.
Promoted earlier in the day, Machi had not allowed a run in eight outings as the closer at Triple-A Tacoma. This is not to suggest that he should replace Diaz, but the Mariners’ bullpen has a 5.84 ERA. It needs reliable arms.
Bob Dutton: @TNT_Mariners