Cycle back a couple of days.
Had the Mariners not squandered a late three-run lead Thursday in losing the series opener to the Chicago White Sox, then absorbing a 9-3 thumping Saturday would go down a little easier.
Instead, it means the Mariners — even after beating Chris Sale on Friday behind a strong outing from Felix Hernandez — must win Sunday’s series finale just to break even this weekend at U.S. Cellular Field.
Saturday was a dud. Plain and simple. They happen.
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As manager Scott Servais noted: "Not our night."
Mariners rookie lefty Ariel Miranda (1-1) labored through 90 pitches over four innings while giving up three runs and five hits. He challenged fellow Cuban Jose Abreu with the score 1-1 in the first inning — and lost.
"I fell behind in the count," Miranda said, "and had to throw the ball down the middle. He made me pay for it."
Still, it was just 3-1 when Miranda departed.
Chicago blew the game open with a four-run fifth inning against Vidal Nuno, who retired the first two hitters before surrendering five straight hits — including homers on successive pitches to Avisail Garcia and Alex Avila.
"The curveball, I left up to Garcia," Nuno said. "The next guy, a change-up."
That was way too much for the Mariners to overcome against All-Star lefty Jose Quintana, who rarely gets this kind of run support; he received fewer than two runs from the White Sox in 11 of his previous 18 starts.
Quintana (11-9) gave up two runs and five hits over 7 2/3 innings while lowering his ERA to 2.77. Dan Jennings closed out the eighth inning, but Jacob Turner slopped up the ninth before Nate Jones closed out the victory.
Nuno took a beating over three innings after replacing Miranda.
In addition to the four-run fifth, Nuno surrendered a two-run homer in the seventh to Tyler Saladino. In all, Nuno allowed 10 hits and saw his ERA spike nearly a full run from 2.68 to 3.60.
"It was one of those weird days," said Nuno, who had not allowed a run in his 12 previous appearances. "I haven’t had one of those in a while. Tomorrow is a different day. Today, I didn’t get it done, but it’s over with."
The loss prevented the Mariners from closing to within one game of Baltimore in the race for the American League’s final wild-card spot.
The Mariners actually jumped to an early lead after Leonys Martin opened the game with a double off the right-field fence. He went to third on a passed ball and scored on Robinson Cano’s sacrifice fly to deep right.
Chicago answered with two runs.
Tim Anderson lined a one-out triple to right field. It probably should have been a double, but Anderson took advantage of Franklin Gutierrez’s diminished range. Martin had to track down the ball from center.
Melky Cabrera delivered a sacrifice fly.
The White Sox took the lead on Abreu’s 436-foot homer to center on a 93-mph fastball from Miranda. It was reminiscent of another Cuban lefty, Roenis Elias, challenging Abreu.
It stayed 2-1 until Miranda encountered two-out problems in the fourth.
After Garcia grounded a double past third, Miranda walked Avila and yielded an RBI single to Saladino. Another walk, to Easton, loaded the bases before Miranda retired Anderson on a fielder’s choice.
"I lost my rhythm there after two outs," Miranda said. "I couldn’t command my fastball to get ahead in the count. That was the reason for having a bad outing."
Chicago’s four-run fifth against Nuno turned the game into a rout.
Todd Frazier lined a two-out single to left and came all the way around on a triple by Justin Morneau into the right-field corner that again exposed Gutierrez’s lack of speed.
Garcia and Avila followed with homers, and it was 7-1.
The Mariners got one run back in the sixth on Guillermo Heredia’s RBI single, but the chance for a bigger inning slipped away when Cano was thrown out at second when trying to stretch a single.
PLAY OF THE GAME: Chris Iannetta lost track of the count while at the plate in the fifth inning and started toward first base after taking a 2-2 pitch for a ball. Returned to the batter’s box, Iannetta struck out on the next pitch.
It was that kind of night.
PLUS: Reliever Dan Altavilla pitched a one-two-three inning in his major-league debut and did it against the middle of the Chicago lineup. He retired Melky Cabrera and Jose Abreu on routine grounders before striking out Todd Frazier…Nelson Cruz went 2-for-4 and is batting .329 (25-for-76) over the last 20 games.
MINUS: Robinson Cano tried to stretch a single into a double in the sixth inning against left fielder Melky Cabrera, an old friend, and was thrown out easily…Franklin Gutierrez showed an alarming lack of range in right field. It will be interesting to see if he continues to draw duty in the outfield…reliever Vidal Nuno matched a career-worst by allowing three home runs.
STAT PACK: Chicago lefty Jose Quintana is 6-1 with a 2.13 ERA in his last 10 starts.
QUOTABLE: Reliever Dan Altavilla admitted he had trouble keeping his emotions in check after working a one-two-three eighth inning in his major-league debut.
"You never want to smile when your team loses like that," he said. "But a debut like that, it was tough to hold back with my family in the stands going crazy. It was tough to hold back my emotions there.
"Just chills throughout my whole body. Getting out there, throwing strikes and going right after those guys…it was an unbelievable feeling."
SHORT HOPS: Third baseman Kyle Seager returned to the lineup after missing the last three games because of a bruised right foot. Seager said: "Now, it just feels like a normal foul ball off the foot."…the season series between the Mariners and White Sox is tied 3-3 with only Sunday’s game remaining.
Bob Dutton: @TNT_Mariners