Taylor Motter, the Mariners’ utility player, took the mound in the bottom of the eighth inning because that’s how bad it was.
And the third pitch he threw, traveling 67.5-mph, Royals third baseman Mike Moustakas teed off for a home run to make it 10-0.
But as far as the box score knows, Motter’s pitching wasn’t the worst the Mariners had this day.
Their 10-run, shutout loss was in every way a rough one, and one they’ll try to forget before the next two games of this series in Kansas City in their final series of this seven-game, 11-day road trip before returning to Seattle.
And on offense, the Mariners didn’t get their first hit against Royals starter Jakob Junis until the seventh inning.
“They just beat us,” Mariners manager Scott Servais told reporters afterward. “We didn’t have it tonight.
Rough ball game. It happens. We’ll bounce back tomorrow.”
In other words: Flush this one.
And take the good with the bad. They had come off an 11-4 drubbing of the Twins in Minnesota on Saturday.
Also: This was without now four starting position players who are on the disabled list, so almost half of their projected starting lineup, including three who combined for 89 home runs last year (Nelson Cruz, Mike Zunino and Ryon Healy).
They made it work on Saturday (though Healy played and had three RBI before spraining his ankle in a post-game workout).
Maybe most surprising in this one was how Marco Gonzales struggled. He was probably bound to regress, but he had probably the best spring of any Mariners’ pitcher and he had a solid first outing against the San Francisco Giants last week, allowing three runs in 6 1/3 innings in the win.
Then that first inning against the Royals … he struck out three batters and stranded the bases loaded, but Kansas City scored three runs and forced him to use 43 pitches.
Yes, 43 pitches. In one inning. He needed 32 fewer to get through a scoreless second inning.
Gonzales was chased for Casey Lawrence in the third inning after allowing back-to-back singles.
“Probably was the first rough outing he’s had,” Servais said. “In spring training he threw well and in San Francisco. Not his night. He had a hard time getting the ball down and they put some good swings on him … he didn’t get any rhythm.”
Servais started warming Lawrence up in the first inning. He said Gonzales, a Gonzaga University graduate, was on his final batter before he struck out Drew Butera.
But the Mariners were sort of in it until the bottom of the fourth inning. They were trailing 4-0, though, in the top half of the fourth when one big swing from Kyle Seager or Daniel Vogelbach with a pair of runners on base could have changed the course.
They both grounded out. And then the Royals followed with five runs off Lawrence in their frame. All of those runs could have been avoided had the Mariners been able to get speedy Paulo Orlando on a double-play ball with one out. He got an RBI fielder’s choice, instead, on his ground ball to Jean Segura.
And that came after a pair of walks that had Servais pointing and shouting from the dugout at home-plate umpire Mark Carlson.
Again, one they’ll want to flush.
FRESH ARMS: Servais only used Motter in the eighth to save the rest of his bullpen for the rest of the series.
And we found out that he's not likely to be the next hitter-pitcher sensation that the Mariners craved this offseason in Shohei Ohtani, who earned AL player of the week with the Angels because he averaged a velocity over 97 mph pitching and over 97 mph exit velocity hitting (meaning he's one of the top three in the majors so far in each category, and the only one in both).
But using Motter prevented Servais from having to use left-hander Wade LeBlanc, meaning they’ll still have a long reliever available if need be in the second game of the series on Tuesday.
And Chasen Bradford, who was recalled from Triple-A Tacoma before the game to take the place of Healy on the roster, pitched three scoreless innings of relief. He was one of the very few bright spots.
It should be noted that Motter also struck out Orlando, his first career strikeout, in his second career mound outing. It came after he hit Jorge Soler with a 76-mph pitch.
TOO MUCH JUNIS: To the Royals’ credit, Junis is solid.
He has not allowed a run in now 14 innings pitched to start the season after blanking the Tigers in seven innings in his previous start.
Junis needed just 90 pitches to hold the Mariners to one hit in seven innings in this one (though he walked two batters and hit three others). Compare that to the combination of Gonzales and Lawrence, who combined for 116 pitches in 4 innings.
The Mariners didn’t get their first hit until Vogelbach’s infield single in the seventh.
Dee Gordon later singled off former Mariner Brandon Mauer to push his hit streak to eight games – as in the first eight games of the season. Robinson Cano went 0-for-2 with a walk to end his hit streak at seven games.
NO INJURIES: Except maybe for catcher David Freitas. He was hit with a foul tip off his left shoulder, though he stayed in the game.
But, as far as reports go, no one slipped on a dugout step (Cruz), strained an oblique in batting practice (Zunino) or sprained an ankle in a post-game workout (Healy) … as far as we know.
An no bird attacks, either.
Servais said he was hopeful Cruz will play when the Mariners return to Seattle on Friday against the Athletics. Ben Gamel (oblique) and Zunino could also return this weekend, while Healy was officially added to the 10-day disabled list on Monday.
Right-hander Felix Hernandez (1-1, 7.71 ERA) makes his third start, this against left-hander Eric Skoglund and the Royals.
Hernandez was brilliant on Opening Day against the Indians, a team that won 102 games last year, when he tossed 5 1/3 scoreless innings. He wasn’t his last start when he allowed eight runs in four innings against the Giants, who won 64 games last season.
So which Hernandez will we see on Tuesday? Maybe a combination of both?
First pitch is scheduled for 5:15 p.m., televised on Root Sports and broadcast on the radio at 710-AM.TJ Cotterill: 253-597-8677