How sweet a sweep would have been for the Seattle Mariners …
How they could have taken two games from the San Diego Padres, packed up for Oakland and prepared for four games at the Coliseum in the final days before September’s final stretch.
How, though, could the Mariners not win a game in San Diego against the National League’s worst team?
What an abysmal two games for the Mariners, capped off by this 8-3 loss the Padres handed them on Wednesday afternoon at sunny Petco Park. It was Seattle’s third consecutive defeat.
It was unclear just what was more disappointing for the Mariners – that Erasmo Ramirez allowed seven runs on nine hits in three innings, or that their’ offense was lifeless against the second rookie Padres pitcher they saw in two days.
“Disappointing might be an understatement – we just didn’t play good baseball,” Mariners manager Scott Servais told reporters afterward. “Going into the weekend we were competing well and were right in all the games against Arizona, a first-place club. We just didn’t play well. We didn’t swing the bats well and we didn’t pitch well early in the ball game.
“We didn’t play good baseball. I can’t put my finger on why, but just when we take a step forward we take a major step back.”
Seattle (74-59) could at least take some solace that the Oakland Athletics didn’t take an even bigger lead in this race for the American League’s final wild card, with the A’s losing to the Houston Astros on Wednesday on a walk-off home run.
And Roenis Elias saved the Mariners’ bullpen with five innings of relief.
So the Mariners trail Oakland by 5½ games, the Astros by eight games and the Yankees 10 games. They need to overtake one of them with 29 games remaining if they want to make the playoffs for the first time since 2001.
And now they get Oakland in what by all indications is a must-win series for the Mariners.
Not that they haven’t done this before. Remember when they swept a four-game series against the Astros on the road after a bad series loss to the Rangers?
“We have to stay consistent,” Nelson Cruz said. “The last few months we win a game and then we struggle sometimes and then we score runs and it’s just back and forth. We have to find a way to stay more consistent and beat the teams we’re supposed to.”
The Mariners trailed 8-1 in the eighth inning before Cruz’s RBI single and Kyle Seager’s run-scoring double, but Ryon Healy grounded into a double play and Mike Zunino struck out to end that threat.
This loss comes one night after 22-year-old rookie right-hander Jacob Nix, making his fourth career start, allowed one run to the Mariners in 8 1/3 innings. On Wednesday, it was 25-year-old rookie left-hander Joey Lucchesi, making his sixth career start, allowing just one run in seven innings.
Lucchesi was hit by a 106-mph comebacker off Ryon Healy’s bat near where he, for very good reason, wears a protective cup. But Lucchesi still fielded the ball and threw to first for the out before being attended to by Padres’ trainers.
He threw some warm-up pitches, stayed in the game and then proceeded to strike out each of the next five batters he faced as part of his nine total Ks.
The Mariners needed three batters into the first inning to score as many runs as they had all of Tuesday in that loss. Jean Segura’s 1,000th career hit was a single to center field and then he stole second base.
He proceeded to run through a stop sign from third-base coach Scott Brosius but still score without a play at the plate on Robinson Cano’s hard single to right field.
Segura later left the game after fouling a pitch off of his leg.
By the end of the first inning, tough, the Padres took the lead.
San Diego went on to score eight unanswered runs, starting with two in the first on Eric Hosmer’s RBI single and Hunter Renfroe’s sacrifice fly.
Manuel Margot’s home run off of Ramirez in the second inning then gave the Padres a 3-1 lead.
By the end of the third, the floodgates busted open.
Luis Urias had his first career hit, Hosmer, the longtime Kansas City Royal, doubled and Renfroe crushed a three-run home run to the second deck past left field for a 6-1 Padres lead.
Ramirez had allowed two earned runs combined over his previous three starts. He allowed seven runs in three innings on nine hits in this one.
He just didn’t have the command nor velocity on his pitches he had on Saturday in a win over the Arizona Diamondbacks. It more resembled his April starts against the Rangers and Indians, when Ramirez allowed 11 runs in 9 2/3 innings in those two starts than his previous three August starts since returning from the disabled list from a right teres major strain in his shoulder.
“When you don’t have the movement, then the hitters jump on everything they can, and they did,” Ramirez said. “No matter what pitch I threw they were just swinging and they got pretty good contact. Just frustrated. I feel bad about it. But it’s something where it can happen but from now on it’s about what adjustment I’m going to do before the next start.”
That was not the time for this kind of start from Ramirez – not with James Paxton still on the disabled list (though he’s set to return Saturday in Oakland), not with Marco Gonzales on the DL, not with this Mariners offense presenting no signs of life as it has this road trip.
And certainly not with the Mariners clinging to their playoff lives with this upcoming series in Oakland.
“This is the big leagues,” Cruz said. “If you’re in the big leagues this is what you do. Every game is important and we just have to take care of business.
“We know what’s ahead. We have to go there and take care of business.”