Last weekend, the Seattle Mariners arrived home from the Midwest riding a six-game winning streak. This week, the club will leave for California trying to break up a six-game losing streak.
The Mariners (13-8) lost each game of their six-game homestand, including dropping a 1-0 loss to the Cleveland Indians in their series finale Wednesday afternoon at T-Mobile Park.
“Six days ago we could score runs whenever we wanted to,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said. “That’s baseball. It’s got ebb and flow to it.
“We’ve got to get back to doing what we do, and that’s controlling the strike zone. When we get pitches to hit, you’ve got to put a good swing on them and square them up, and we just haven’t done that here this homestand.”
It is the first time this season Seattle’s offense, which was electrifying the first two weeks of the season, has been shut out.
The Mariners’ record-breaking streak of consecutive games with a home run to begin a season ended at 20, though a Ryon Healy crack in the second inning nearly extended it. His shot to left at first appeared to wrap around the foul pole, and was called a home run on the field, but was overruled by video replay.
“We had to take anything we got at that point,” Servais said. “Home runs are nice. We’ve been riding that train a little bit too, and that dried up today as well.”
Mallex Smith hit a leadoff double in the fourth inning, Domingo Santana doubled in the sixth, and Edwin Encarnacion hit a leadoff single in the seventh, but those were the only three hits the Mariners managed.
Seattle had just five base runners during the game, and eight of the 10 batters that made plate appearances struck out at least once.
During the six-game homestand, the Mariners piled up double-digit strikeouts five times.
“Part of the strikeout jump is certainly the quality of stuff that we have faced,” Servais said. “Three of those guys are the leaders in strikeouts in our league. But, it has that little carryover effect here the last few days, and we’ve got to do a better job, certainly.
“It’s hard to survive. You’re not going to win many ballgames when you strike out 13, 14 times. You’ve got to get the ball in play and allow some things to happen offensively.”
Cleveland starter Carlos Carrasco (2-2, 7.41 ERA) earned the win, stumping Seattle’s offense yet again in a brilliant outing.
Carrasco worked a complete seven innings, allowing just the three hits while striking out 12 and walking two. He threw 108 pitches, including 72 for strikes.
He struck out the side in three separate innings, and fanned Jay Bruce in three straight plate appearances, and Domingo Santana and Omar Narvaez each twice.
“He was throwing all of his pitches well, in the zone, with some really nasty shadows behind him,” Healy said. “Tough to pick up spin out of hand initially, so a couple pitches that maybe we miss throughout the lineup, that maybe normally we don’t.”
Cleveland reliever Nick Wittgren retired the Mariners in order in the eighth and ninth to close the game.
The lack offensive firepower again negated a quality start by a Mariners pitcher. Making his first major league start, 25-year-old rookie right-hander Erik Swanson, worked six productive innings, but was tagged with the loss after giving up the game’s only run.
Swanson (0-1, 3.38) worked 1-2-3 innings in the first, third, fourth and sixth, and never faced more than four batters in any frame. He allowed just two hits, while striking out five and walking none. He threw 81 pitches.
“Erik Swanson was outstanding,” Servais said. “Really in control from the first batter he faced. Just nice rhythm with all of his pitches. Obviously his fastball has got a little life, a little hop to it. Getting it by some guys.
“But, worked in a good changeup, slider. Second time through the order, continued to mix it up. Really a bright spot there.”
The only meaningful mistake Swanson made came in the fifth when Jake Bauers cranked a 3-2 fastball 406 feet over the fence in center field. The only other hit Swanson allowed was a two-out single to Bauers in the second.
“A little bit higher is where I wanted it,” Swanson said. “But, the count, I kind of couldn’t throw it too far out of the zone as a non-competitive pitch, because otherwise he’s just going to look at it.”
Swanson, the No. 9 prospect in Seattle’s organization, came to Seattle this offseason in the James Paxton deal with the New York Yankees.
He took over the No. 4 spot in the Mariners’ starting rotation this week in place of injured left-hander Wade LeBlanc, who left Friday night’s game against Houston in the fifth inning with a strained right oblique, and was placed on the 10-day injured list Sunday after it was ruled as a Grade 2 strain.
LeBlanc, who has offered a steady presence in Seattle’s five-man rotation, could be out four to six weeks, though Servais has said LeBlanc hopes to resume pitching activities sooner. Swanson was recalled from Triple-A Tacoma on Sunday to fill the rotation spot.
Mariners relievers Zac Rosscup, Brandon Brennan and Anthony Swarzak each threw one scoreless inning in Wednesday’s loss. Swarzak struck out the side in the top of the ninth.
Seattle begins a six-game road series in California against the Los Angeles Angels at 7:07 p.m. Thursday. The Mariners will play a four-game set against the Angels, before a short two-game series against the San Diego Padres.
Mariners right-hander Felix Hernandez (1-1, 4.38) is set to take the mound Thursday night against Angels right-hander Chris Stratton (0-1, 5.54).
The game will be telecast on Root Sports Northwest, and broadcast on 710-ESPN radio.