Edwin Diaz and the Mariners paid dearly for a two-out hanging slider in the ninth inning Saturday night in a 4-3 loss to the Oakland Athletics at Safeco Field.
Ryon Healy drove that mistake, on an 0-2 count, into the right-center gap for an RBI double, which proved to be the winning run.
It was a bad pitch. No argument there.
"I missed on that slider," Diaz said. "I threw the fastball up and in, and he looked bad. I could have gone back to that fastball again, but I decided to throw a slider. I missed it in the middle, and he hit it pretty good."
The Mariners are limping into the All-Star break, which arrives after Sunday’s series finale against the Athletics, with 10 losses in their last 13 games. That skid includes nine losses in 10 home games.
Asked what stands out most from the last two weeks, manager Scott Servais didn’t hesitate.
"Offensively, we’re not bringing it every night," he said. "Our pitching, with what we’ve gone through in the first half of the season with all of the injuries, I think we’ve hung in there.
"Offensively, when we’re playing really well, the lineup is really clicking. Some nights, obviously, are better than others. But probably the inconsistency of that is the one thing that sticks for me."
The numbers validate Servais’ view.
The Mariners have a 4.38 ERA over their last 13 games, which is actually better than they had been doing (4.67) up to that point. Further, 4.38 is almost dead on for the American League’s overall season average.
Now look at the offensive production.
In going 39-37 through 76 games, the Mariners were batting .267 as a club and averaging 4.97 runs. Over the last 13 games, those numbers are .242 and 3.77.
That’s a significant decline.
It’s axiomatic that run production fluctuates for all clubs. The Mariners had a stretch earlier this season when they scored nine runs in eight games (and went 1-7). They are in another lull. An extended one. And it’s killing them.
Three takeaways from Saturday’s loss:
***Diaz is the guy: Diaz’s shaky sophomore season took another dip Saturday in grooving that slider to Healy.
But barring a significant breakdown in mechanics (as happened briefly earlier this season) or a noticeable loss in confidence (which usually manifests itself in a tentative approach), he’s going to be the closer.
The Mariners don’t have anyone else in their bullpen with similar tools (and a proven ability) to overmatch hitters on both sides of the plate in high-leverage situations.
Club officials put together a bullpen of component parts capable of bridging the game to Diaz. Everyone has, more or less, a defined role. Start shifting those roles, and you can get a real mess. Diaz is the guy. He just needs to pitch better.
***Zunino’s slips back: We’re not even 10 days into July, and Mike Zunino’s 31-RBI June seems like a distant memory. Suddenly, it’s April all over again.
Zunino was 0-for-3 with two strikeouts in Saturday’s loss and has just three hits in his last 36 at-bats while striking out 15 times. The growing question is whether he can pump the brakes and pull himself out of his spin.
***Moore solidifying role: Rookie right-hander Andrew Moore had, probably, the worst outing of his three-start career and still put up a quality performance in limiting the Athletics to three runs in six innings.
Moore lacks a hammer among his four-pitch mix, but he shows the ability to command each of them while working all quadrants of the strike zone.
Three starts is too early to draw conclusions, but Moore continues to validate the Mariners’ view that he’ll be a reliable fixture (if not an ace) in their rotation for years to come.
Bob Dutton: @TNT_Mariners