Seattle Mariners

Three takeaways from the Mariners’ series-opening loss to Minnesota

Seattle Mariners center fielder Mallex Smith climbs the wall, but can’t get to a three-run home run by Minnesota Twins’ Byron Buxton off pitcher Erik Swanson during the fourth inning of a baseball game Thursday, May 16, 2019, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Stephen Brashear)
Seattle Mariners center fielder Mallex Smith climbs the wall, but can’t get to a three-run home run by Minnesota Twins’ Byron Buxton off pitcher Erik Swanson during the fourth inning of a baseball game Thursday, May 16, 2019, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Stephen Brashear) AP

The Seattle Mariners (22-24) dropped an 11-6 loss to the Minnesota Twins in their series opener Thursday night at T-Mobile Park.

Here are three takeaways from the loss.

1. SWANSON STRUGGLES AGAIN

Mariners rookie starter Erik Swanson (1-5, 8.04 ERA) served up a career-high four homers and made his shortest start yet Thursday night.

Making his sixth start of the season, Swanson worked through two innings without much trouble, but gave up solo homers to Jason Castro and Max Kepler in the third. He escaped the inning without further damage, but didn’t record one out in the fourth, and was pulled after allowing hits to five of the six batters he faced.

Swanson tossed three-plus innings, allowing eight runs on nine hits with three strikeouts on 64 total pitches.

“A couple of fastballs tonight that just caught too much of the plate,” Swanson said. “Moving forward, I just have to minimize the amount of plate that I’m catching with them, whether that’s throwing a little bit more inside, a little bit more outside, top of the zone, bottom of the zone. Adjustments I need to make moving forward, and that’s what I’m going to do.”

He allowed four consecutive hits to Eddie Rosario (single), C.J. Cron (home run), Marwin Gonzalez (single) and Miguel Sano (double) before Castro reached on a fielder’s choice when Mariners first baseman Edwin Encarnacion tried to throw down Gonzalez at home. Gonzalez scored anyway, and Swanson then fell behind Bryon Buxton, who promptly crushed a three-run homer to straightaway center field, ending Swanson’s night.

Swanson, who has allowed five or more runs in four of his six starts — including a combined 15 earned runs in his past two starts — was removed without recording an out in the fourth.

Mariners manager Scott Servais did recognize Swanson’s ability to continue to go after hitters despite allowing the nine hits. Swanson’s next start is projected for Tuesday in Texas.

“He’s in a spot here we brought him up, and he’s had some good starts,” Servais said. “He’s had some patches that have been very good, very impressive, you say hey this guy’s got a bright future ahead of him. But, the consistency is the big thing. We’ll talk about it here in the next few days, and see where he’s at going forward.”

2. ERRORS KEEP PILING UP

Seattle’s defense committed a pair of errors in the disastrous fourth inning to push its MLB-leading total to 49. The Mariners are currently on pace to finish the season with 172 erros.

Encarnacion’s throw home to try to catch Gonzalez could have resulted in the first out of the inning, but instead of stepping on the base, he opted to go for the lead runner. Catcher Omar Narvaez couldn’t handle the throw, and likely wouldn’t have had time to apply the tag anyway, and Encarnacion was charged with a throwing error.

The third out should have come five batters later, but center fielder Mallex Smith, in his first game back from a two-week stint in Triple-A, where he was working on both his offense and defense, lost his handle on a routine fly ball.

Rookie reliever Parker Markel, who threw 31 pitches in the inning, faced an extra three batters, allowing another single and a walk before finally ending the frame with a groundout.

“There’s no doubt the ball was knuckling a little bit, but I’m sure Mallex would agree it’s a ball that’s got to be caught,” Servais said. “That fourth inning, there was a play at first base and we threw home, another ball in the outfield that got away from Domingo (Santana). Not an easy play, but plays at this level that really need to have made, keeping pitch counts in check and keeping the game rolling along. Certainly it got up on us in the fourth inning tonight.”

3. VOGELBACH IS BACK

Designated hitter Daniel Vogelbach provided one of the few highlights in the loss, launching his third homer run in as many games in the eighth.

He cracked his 12th homer of the season — which is tied for the team lead — to right center, after Mitch Haniger doubled and Encarnacion singled with one out, to cut Minnesota’s lead to 10-6. It was the second time this season Vogelbach has homered in three consecutive games. He homered in four straight between April 2-8.

Vogelbach has recently worked on taming his swing speed after his batting average started trending negatively earlier in the month.

“Everybody has something they battle throughout the year, and it’s something that I’ve always battled my whole life,” Vogelbach said earlier this week.

“Just sometimes trying too much, and maybe my effort level being a little too high. “Anytime I feel it’s going that way, I just try to over-emphasize really slowing it down and really being as easy as I can be.”

Earlier in the game, Mallex Smith, Ryon Healy and J.P. Crawford each homered off of former Mariner Michael Pineda, who started for the Twins.

Smith, who was hitless in his final 24 at-bats before being optioned to Tacoma, sent his second home run of the season to center in his first plate appearance in the third.

Healy and Crawford then went back-to-back in the fifth to cut into Minnesota’s lead. It was the fourth time Seattle, which leads the majors with 87 homers, has hit back-to-back homers this season. Healy’s was his seventh of the season, Crawford’s was his first.

Lauren Smith covers the Seattle Mariners for The News Tribune. She previously covered high school sports at TNT and The Olympian, beginning in 2015. She is a graduate of the University of Washington and Emerald Ridge High School.


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