No matter what the standings suggest, not all losses are the same. Some are far more painful than others, and the Mariners had a particularly one Thursday in losing 6-3 to the Colorado Rockies at Safeco Field.
Sure, there were opportunities wasted. The Mariners were 1-for-11 with runners in scoring position. And Yovani Gallardo’s continuing struggles are a growing concern.
But the real issue centers around shortstop Jean Segura and designated hitter Nelson Cruz. Both left the game because of injuries sufficiently serious to require additional post-game medical examinations to determine their severity.
The results of those exams are expected to be announced at some point prior to Friday’s series opener against Tampa Bay, but manager Scott Servais is already sounding like a man anticipating bad news.
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"I'm hopeful the guys are not out for an extended period of time," he said. "We certainly need them, but injuries happen. We’ve dealt with it all year, and we’ll deal with this if we lose the guys."
Segura twisted his right ankle while sliding into second base and needed to be helped from the field with his arms around the shoulders of trainer Rob Nodine and first-base coach Casey Candaele.
Cruz was hit in the left hand by a pitch from Colorado starter Kyle Freeland. While Cruz initially stayed in the game, he didn’t take his next scheduled at-bat. Servais acknowledged Cruz might have suffered a broken bone.
Even if the examinations suggest one or both players won’t require time on the disabled list, the Mariners are likely to make one or more roster moves to add healthy players prior to Friday’s game.
The club’s decision to carry eight relievers means it is already operating with a shortened bench: three reserves instead of the usual four. It’s hard to imagine the Mariners playing with fewer than three healthy reserves.
Three takeaways from Thursday’s loss:
***Lineup shortages: It will be a major blow if the Mariners lose either Segura or Cruz, let alone both, for an extended period of time.
Segura is the lineup’s leading hitter, at .341, and it’s primary table-setter. Cruz leads the Mariners with 12 homers and 42 RBIs.
Utilityman Taylor Motter played well earlier this season when Segura missed 12 games because of a strained right hamstring, but he’s batting just .185 in 35 games since April 19.
The Mariners, if they lose Cruz, could recall first baseman Dan Vogelbach, a DH in waiting, from Triple-A Tacoma or simply rotate players through the role.
***Gallardo’s status: Servais and other club officials are genuinely puzzled by Gallardo’s struggles. He is healthy and displays good stuff most of the time: a fastball that works at 92-94 mph and effective off-speed pitches.
Gallardo’s bugaboo is, typically, one bad inning per game. On Thursday, it was a four-run second inning that put the Mariners in a hole they couldn’t escape. He is now 2-6 with a 6.24 ERA in 11 starts.
The Mariners’ injury-depleted rotation is starting to get healthy. James Paxton returned Wednesday from the disabled list. Felix Hernandez, Hisashi Iwakuma and Drew Smyly could all return at some point in June or early July.
That leaves Gallardo with a few more starts to show he deserves to keep his job in a restocked rotation over those who replaced injured starters: Ariel Miranda, Christian Bergman and Sam Gaviglio.
***Lawrence etches a mark: Right-hander Casey Lawrence, a starting pitcher acquired May 11 in a waiver claim from Toronto, continues to make a strong impression as a long reliever and now owns a line in the Mariners’ record book.
Lawrence held the Rockies to one run in five innings after replacing Gallardo and his nine strikeouts are the most ever by a Mariners reliever. Eight pitchers previously shared the record with eight.
The downside for Lawrence, from a personal perspective, is he threw 86 pitches on Thursday, which effectively renders him unavailable for at least two and probably three or more days.
That makes Lawrence a prime candidate to be sent Friday to the minors if the Mariners decide they need to trim their bullpen to the usual seven relievers in order to add a healthy body to replace Segura and/or Cruz.
Even if that happens, look for Lawrence to return at the first opportunity.
Bob Dutton: @TNT_Mariners