Can Ariel Miranda stop the bleeding?
The Mariners enter Thursday’s series finale against Washington in desperate need of something approaching a quality start as they seek to end a five-game skid and avoid a sweep at Nationals Park.
Miranda might be their best bet among the current members of their rotation. He permitted fewer than three runs in four of his last five starts while lasting at least five innings on each occasion.
Doing so again would be gold to the Mariners, who have seen their last four starters surrender 32 runs over 16 2/3 combined innings. Miranda held the Chicago White Sox to one run over seven innings in his last start.
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A good start from Miranda (3-2 with a 4.28 ERA) would be step one.
The Mariners also need their lineup to shake free from a deepening malaise. They scored just one run in each loss of their five-game skid and only 32 runs during a 3-10 collapse over the last two weeks.
Prior to those last 13 games, they ranked second among American League clubs in runs per game.
After mustering little in two games against the bottom elements of the Nationals’ rotation, the Mariners now face lefty Gio Gonzalez (3-1), whose 2.86 ERA is the best in a unit that includes Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg.
***The game starts at 9:05 a.m. Pacific time. It was moved forward by four hours Wednesday due to a forecast of heavy rain throughout the late afternoon and evening in the D.C. area.
***Miranda will have the element of surprise on his side. The only current National who has faced him is former Mariners teammate Adam Lind, who has a double in two at-bats.
***Gonzalez is winless in his last four starts, although he’s only lost once in that span.
***Nelson Cruz (1-for-13), Robinson Cano (0-for-9) and Kyle Seager (0-for-3) are a combined 1-for-25 against Gonzalez, but Jean Segura is 7-for-13 (.538), and Danny Valencia is 3-for-8 (.375).
***Gonzalez hasn’t faced the Mariners since 2011, but he once saw them on a regular basis while pitching for Oakland from 2008-11. He is 6-2 with a 3.27 ERA against them in 12 career games.
***The Mariners are 1-13 against the Nationals since the franchise moved from Montreal to Washington in 2005. The Mariners are 0-8 in Washington — 0-3 at old RFK Stadium and 0-5 at Nationals Park (which opened in 2008).
***Washington third baseman Anthony Rendon, whom the Mariners nearly selected with the second overall pick in the 2011 MLB Draft, is 4-for-8 with a double, three homers and eight RBIs in the first two games.
The Mariners opted for left-handed pitcher Danny Hultzen over Rendon, who was chosen by the Nationals with the sixth overall pick.
***Cano went 3-for-4 in Wednesday’s loss, which pushed his average to a season-high .303. He is batting .356 (32-for-90) with seven homers and 21 RBIs in his last 23 games.
It was 28 years ago Thursday — May 25, 1989 — that the Mariners acquired pitchers Randy Johnson, Brian Holman and Gene Harris from the Nationals’ predecessor, the Montreal Expos, for pitchers Mark Langston and Mike Campbell.
It was 26 years ago Thursday — May 25, 1991 — that center fielder Ken Griffey Jr. made one of his career-best catches by ranging into right-center to backhand a drive by Ruben Sierra before crashing feet-first into the Kingdome wall.
Sierra still went 4-for-6 for Texas in its 8-6 victory in 11 innings.
Bob Dutton: @TNT_Mariners