The Seattle Mariners (22-26) dropped an 18-4 loss to the Minnesota Twins on Saturday night at T-Mobile Park.
Here are three takeaways from the loss.
1. LEBLANC SHAKY IN RETURN
Mariners starter Wade LeBlanc (2-1, 7.36 ERA), making his first start since returning from the 10-day injured list, allowed a career-high four home runs, and recorded his first loss of the season.
He missed more than a month with a strained oblique, last pitching on April 12 against Houston, but appeared back in form from the outset, throwing just six pitches to retire the Twins in order in the first.
But, his outing rapidly unraveled in the second. C.J. Cron knocked a one-out homer to left center before Max Kepler followed up with a double. Miguel Sano worked a nine-pitch at-bat, and eventually walked. Jason Castro then walked on four pitches, loading the bases.
LeBlanc’s first two pitches to Byron Buxton were called for balls — part of a string of seven consecutive pitches that were ruled misses — prompting Seattle’s dugout to exchange words with home plate umpire Alfonso Marquez, with the crowd booing in the background. Buxton crushed the next pitch, a cutter LeBlanc left over the middle, to left for the second grand slam of his career, giving the Twins a lead that already seemed insurmountable at 5-0.
“He just ran into trouble in the second and wasn’t able to locate,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said. “It happens. He hasn’t been out there a lot, obviously. I thought he was ready to go and take the start. We were going to be conservative tonight on the pitches anyway, but they were on him.”
LeBlanc allowed two more solo homers in the third, to Cron and Sano, before he was pulled. He completed 2 1/3 innings, allowing seven runs on seven hits, including the four homers, while striking out and walking two each. He threw 49 pitches, including 35 in the decisive second inning.
LeBlanc said he felt “completely normal” physically after returning from the injury, but struggled to locate pitches after the 1-2-3 first.
“They made adjustments, I didn’t,” LeBlanc said. “Simple as that.”
LeBlanc and Servais both emphasized they did not think LeBlanc returned to the rotation too soon, but needs to get back into a rhythm, and location will follow.
“That’s going to come in time, innings, pitches,” LeBlanc said. “It’s one of those things that happens with a rhythm, with a routine. You get into a comfort zone and kind of build off it.”
2. BULLPEN BLUNDERS
After LeBlanc’s exit, the Mariners cycled through four bullpen arms, and backup catcher Tom Murphy, to finish the nearly four-hour game.
No regular Mariners reliever posted a scoreless outing, though Murphy worked a 1-2-3 ninth inning, striking out both Sano — on a 90 mph fastball — and Castro. The two strikeouts he recorded were the first in his MLB career. Murphy, who also played in left field during the game, said he pitched in high school, but has rarely played outfield anytime during his baseball career.
“It kinds of puts things in a little different perspective when you’re out there not just grinding away behind the plate,” he said.
Seattle’s relievers combined to give up 11 runs.
Rookie Parker Markel allowed three runs on three hits in 2/3 innings in the third, including a three-run homer to Jonathan Schoop. Mike Wright gave up five more runs (four earned) on five hits between the fourth and fifth, as Minnesota’s lead climbed to 15-0.
Schoop homered for the second time in the sixth, taking Mariners reliever Ryan Garton, who was making his debut with the club, to right center with a two-run knock. Garton pitched two innings, allowing the two runs on two hits, and issuing a walk.
Eddie Rosario later singled in a run off Cory Gearrin in the eighth. Gearrin worked the one inning, allowing two hits and walking one.
“We knew there was going to be some turnover in our bullpen as we kind of sorted through some things, and we went through some injuries early,” Servais said. “We get some of those guys back here, guys that we feel good about. But, right now, like I’ve said all along, it’s opportunity for other guys to step up and try to grab hold of it.
“Some guys have, other guys have struggled to throw strikes and put people away and things like that. It is one area we knew we were going to have some churning through to figure it out. We’re just in a tough spot right now. We’re struggling.”
3. BATS MOSTLY QUIET
The Mariners rallied for four runs in the fifth inning, but didn’t score in the other eight frames. Two singles by Edwin Encarnacion in the second and fourth, another by Ryon Healy in the sixth, and one by Mallex Smith in the ninth were the only four hits the Mariners recorded outside of the six-hit fifth.
The Mariners were retired in order in four innings, and struck out 14 times. No batters walked.
During the rally in the fifth, all nine batters in Seattle’s starting lineup made a plate appearance, and six recorded hits.
After Healy (single) and Jay Bruce (double) reached, J.P. Crawford hit a broken-bat RBI single, plating Healy for the Mariners’ first run. Bruce then scored on a wild pitch, and Smith singled in Crawford. Smith later scored on Daniel Vogelbach’s RBI single to right to make it 15-4.