Maybe manager Scott Servais saw this coming Sunday, another downturn in the Mariners’ inconsistent attack that resulted in a 4-1 loss to the Chicago White Sox and a lost weekend at U.S. Cellular Field.
Speaking prior to the game, Servais outlined what he saw as the Mariners’ biggest need as they head into the season’s final five weeks in search of their first postseason appearance since 2001.
"I was thinking about things coming to the park this morning," he said. "We’d talked about getting consistent starting pitching. Our pitching has been pretty good.
"To kind of carry us, especially here on the road today and going into Texas, I’d like to see our bats wake up and start putting a consistent five, six, seven runs up there on the board, and then see where we’re at."
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Instead…just one run.
"We had a couple of chances there with runners in scoring position," Servais said. "We didn’t really come through. We just didn’t get much going offensively. You’ve got to get hits with runners in scoring position."
The Mariners were 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position as they wasted a strong start from Taijuan Walker in losing for the fifth time in six games.
Walker (4-9) permitted just two hits through the first seven innings before weakening in the eighth. Unfortunately, one hit was a well-placed Justin Morneau grounder that produced two Chicago runs in the fourth inning.
Melky Cabrera’s RBI triple finished Walker in a two-run eighth that effectively ended the game. Even so, this was a new-look Walker, who hit three batters by pitching with an aggressive, buzz-them-inside attitude.
"When you throw in," he said, "it’s going to happen. You have to make them uncomfortable. Obviously, I’m not trying to hit a batter, but I’m trying to get them off the plate."
His body language suggested this was an angry Walker, and he didn’t deny it: "I was just trying to be aggressive and go out there and shove it down their throat."
Had the Mariners backed Walker with a few runs, it might have been different. As it was…well, so it goes.
The Mariners also dropped a game farther back in the wild-card hunt; they trail Baltimore by three games for the American League’s final postseason berth with 32 games remaining.
The problem was a familiar one; the Mariners struggled against left-handed starters. They saw three this weekend in Chicago, where they lost they lost three times in four games.
And they are likely to see two more in their upcoming three-game series against Texas. The Mariners are 20-28 against lefty starters in contrast to their 48-34 record against right-handers.
"Every series, we face two lefties," said Robinson Cano, whose homer in the sixth inning produced the Mariners’ only run. "And every one you face is different. There are no excuses.
"Taijuan pitched a really good game today. We just didn’t score runs." There were chances. The Mariners trailed 2-1 when they started the seventh inning with singles by Kyle Seager and Franklin Gutierrez, which prompted to White Sox to pull lefty Carlos Rodon.
Mike Zunino’s attempted sacrifice against reliever Chris Beck resulted in a force at second base.
When the Mariners sent up Adam Lind as a pinch-hitter for Dae-Ho Lee, Chicago countered by bringing in Dan Jennings, their only lefty reliever, for matchup purposes.
The strategy worked. Lind grounded into a double play.
The Mariners put two runners on base with one out in the ninth inning against Chicago closer David Robertson but, again, came up empty.
Rodon (5-8) got the victory after limiting the Mariners to one run and five hits in six-plus innings. Four relievers covered the final nine outs with Robertson getting his 33rd save.
PLAY OF THE GAME: The game might have turned in the second inning after the Mariners got a bit of a gift triple when right fielder Avisail Garcia misplayed Kyle Seager’s one-out drive.
The ball struck the wall and caromed away from Garcia and center fielder Adam Eaton.
Chicago starter Carlos Rodon escaped when aided by a bit of a gift strikeout on a 3-2 pitch to Franklin Gutierrez that crew chief John Hirschbeck saw as a strike.
The PitchF/x computer suggested the pitch wasn’t close to a strike.
Rodon then ended the inning by striking out Mike Zunino. The Mariners came away with nothing.
PLUS: Third baseman Kyle Seager had three of the Mariners’ seven hits. He is batting .366 (26-for-71) over his last 19 games…shortstop Ketel Marte went a long way to run down a pop near the left-field foul line by Tyler Saladino for the first out in the fifth inning…Robinson Cano went 2-for-4 and leads the club with multiple-hit games.
MINUS: The lineup’s six right-handed batters were a combined 2-for-19. Franklin Gutierrez had both hits…an overshifted infield cost the Mariners in the fourth inning. With the bases loaded and one out, Justin Morneau hit a grounder to the left side that, with the shortstop in a normal alignment, might have resulted in an inning-ending double play. Instead, it was a two-run single.
STAT PACK: Robinson Cano reached 30 homers for just the second time in his 12-year career. He is now three homers shy of his career-best 33, hit in 2012 with the New York Yankees. Cano also has more homers than doubles (29). He has never finished a season with more homers than doubles.
QUOTABLE: Robinson Cano on becoming only the fifth second baseman in American League history to post multiple 30-homer seasons.
"In the situation that we are in right now," he said, "it doesn’t matter how well I do or how well I play in the game…if we don’t win, it doesn’t make any difference."
The other AL second basemen with multiple 30-homer seasons: Alfonso Soriano did it three times, while Ian Kinsler, Bret Boone and Joe Gordon each did it twice.
SHORT HOPS: Mariners starter Taijuan Walker hit three batters, including Jose Abreu on two occasions. Adam Eaton left the game soon after being hit by a pitch in the fourth inning because of a bruised right forearm. X-rays on Eaton confirmed the damage was limited to a bruise…the White Sox finished with a 4-3 edge in the season series.
Bob Dutton: @TNT_Mariners