The moment the Mariners slipped back under .500 effectively occurred Tuesday in the sixth inning of their 8-2 loss to Philadelphia at Safeco Field.
It wasn’t official until about a miserable hour or so later, but you judge.
The Mariners had already squandered a two-run lead but had a great chance to break a 2-2 tie after Ben Gamel opened the sixth inning with a walk and went to third on Robinson Cano’s single to right.
Instead they got squat.
Philadelphia starter Aaron Nola (5-5) held the tie by striking out Nelson Cruz, for a third time, and getting Kyle Seager to ground weakly into an inning-ending double play.
"Those are our guys," manager Scott Servais said. "Those are the guys we want up there in those spots. They just didn’t get it done tonight."
The game turned.
Maikel Franco opened the seventh inning with a 390-foot drive to left for a homer against Mariners starter James Paxton. The Phillies led 3-2. Franco previously started Philadelphia’s two-run fifth with a double.
"A changeup," Paxton said. "We doubled up on it. I missed with the first one. I thought he’d be cheating to the fastball after seeing me miss with a changeup. So I went back to it.
"I just left it up. A bad pitch. He was having a good night. He was seeing the ball well. He hit it hard."
The Mariners got one-out singles in their seventh from Danny Valencia and Jarrod Dyson but, again, came up empty. Nola struck out Mike Zunino and retired Jean Segura on a grounder to third.
It was all Philly at that point and from then on.
"We had a couple of chances in the sixth and the seventh innings to put some numbers up against him," Servais said. "In those key at-bats, we didn’t get it done tonight.
"We’ve got to give Nola credit. He did throw the ball very well.
Paxton (5-3) gave up just four hits in seven innings, but three came in Philadelphia’s two-run fifth. The other was Franco’s homer.
The Fightins then chewed up the Mariners’ bullpen.
Tony Zych replaced Paxton to start the eighth, and the Phillies struck quickly. Daniel Nava led off with a double off the right-field wall and scored of Freddy Galvis’ single up the middle.
Nola handed that 4-2 lead to ex-Mariner Joaquin Benoit, who eased through the eighth before the Phillies cuffed Edwin Diaz, in a get-work outing, for four more runs in the ninth.
"A bad day," Diaz said. "Everybody has a bad day. Tomorrow will be a new day, and I’ll be ready tomorrow."
Hector Neris closed out the Phillies’ 14th victory in their last 56 games by striking out the side in the ninth. The Mariners lost their third in a row and dropped under .500 at 39-40.
Neither club had a hit until Segura drove a first-pitch fastball from Nola into the right-field seats with two outs in the third inning for a two-run homer. Dyson reached earlier on a one-out walk.
It was Segura’s fifth homer of the season but his first since May 18.
The Phillies didn’t get their first hit until Franco’s leadoff double in the fifth inning on a drive that seemed to fool right fielder Mitch Haniger.
Cameron Perkins followed with a infield single on a slow roller to third that moved Franco to third. A walk to Cameron Rupp loaded the bases with no outs.
Ty Kelly’s sacrifice fly to center made it 2-1 and moved Perkins to third, which allowed him to score the tying run on Nava’s sacrifice fly to right. Rupp moved to second on Haniger’s wild throw to the plate.
Haniger atoned when Galvis poked a single to right. Rupp tried to score, but Haniger threw him out at the plate.
Valencia’s bad-hop double past third with one out later in the inning provided the Mariners with a chance to answer, but Nola struck out Dyson and, after walking Zunino, retired Segura on a squibber near the plate.
"We've got to swing the bats better," Servais said. "As good as we were going here early in the homestand, it has cooled off in a hurry."
PLAY OF THE GAME: Franco not only had the tie-breaking homer and a leadoff double that ignited an earlier two-run inning. He also turned in the game’s pivotal defensive play.
The Mariners had runners at first and second with two outs in the seventh inning when Segura pulled a hard grounder up the third-base line. Franco made a diving stop, got to his feet and threw out Segura at first.
"Franco made a real nice play on that ball that Segura hit," Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said. "That was huge during that part of the game."
PLUS: Paxton was the best he’s been in four games. It just wasn’t good enough…Valencia returned from missing two games with a sore right wrist and went 2-for-4…Dyson had a single and a walk in three plate appearances.
MINUS: Cruz, Seager and Haniger were each hitless in four at-bats and struck out six times in their 12 combined at-bats…Diaz drew some pointed criticism from Servais for a lack of mental sharpness…the Mariners were 0-for-6 with runners in scoring position.
STAT PACK: The Mariners have lost three in a row after winning a season-best six in a row.
QUOTABLE: "We didn't get the results that we wanted tonight," Paxton said, "but my process was much better. I made a lot better pitches."
SHORT HOPS: Aaron Altherr has four homers in three games against the Mariners…Perkins’ infield single in the Phillies’ two-run fifth snapped a 0-for-17 skid…Mariners starters have allowed three or fewer earned runs in eight of their last nine games.
ON DECK: The Mariners and Phillies conclude their two-game series at 12:40 p.m. Wednesday at Safeco Field. Right-hander Felix Hernandez (3-2 with a 4.68 ERA) will oppose Philadelphia right-hander Mark Leiter Jr. (1-0, 3.60).
The game can be seen on Root Sports Northwest and heard on 710 ESPN and the Mariners Radio Network.
Bob Dutton: @TNT_Mariners