Were the Seattle Mariners sailing along in line with expectations, getting dazzled Wednesday afternoon by Masahiro Tanaka in a 3-1 loss at Safeco Field might be fairly easy to shake off.
Even getting swept in three games by the New York Yankees, as also happened, might be viewed as a blip, albeit an unwelcome one, that occurs occasionally in the grind of a six-month season.
But the Mariners aren’t sailing. They’re bailing. And lately, it seems they’re doing it Three Stooges-style: corkscrewing holes into the hull to let the water out. And with the same results.
“At this point,” designated hitter Nelson Cruz admitted, “we’re trying to figure out what’s going on. I guess it’s just part of the season. You have to grind through it and not feel sorry for yourself.”
Tanaka (3-1) returned from more than a month on the disabled list and simply painted in limiting the Mariners to one run and three hits in seven inning. He struck out nine, walked none and threw just 78 pitches.
Umpire Will Little’s often-generous strike zone didn’t hurt, but Tanaka was in complete command.
“His stuff was sharp today,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. “He was able to move the ball around and expand the zone when he had to. The stuff was there, it was the highest velocity we've seen from him this year.”
Chris Capuano and Andrew Miller closed out the victory. Miller worked out of a big jam in the eighth and got the final five outs for his 17th save.
Mariners starter Taijuan Walker (2-6) was in top form, too, in following up his eight shutout innings Friday in a 2-1 victory over Cleveland. But he yielded two home runs among five hits allowed over eight innings.
A two-run drive by Garrett Jones in the fourth proved decisive.
“I missed with a change-up down and in to a lefty,” Walker said. “That’s usually where they like the pitch.”
So here we are.
The Mariners are 24-29 and have lost five in a row since reaching .500 in Walker’s previous start. And the chief culprit is an attack that, even after 53 games, can’t seem to find a rhythm.
“We’re in a funk offensively,” manager Lloyd McClendon said. “I’m certain we’re going to come out of it. This sounds like a broken record. It’s tough.”
The eighth inning was excruciating.
Justin Ruggiano led off with a pinch single against Capuano, who then struck out Brad Miller. When the Mariners sent up another pinch-hitter, Rickie Weeks, the Yankees summoned Miller and his 1.16 ERA.
Things got interesting.
Miller hit Weeks with a 1-2 slider, then loaded the bases with a four-pitch walk to Mike Zunino. Miller fell behind 3-0 on Logan Morrison but battled back for a strikeout.
Morrison chased 3-2 slider that was nowhere near the strike zone. Miller closed the inning, and stranded all three runners, by retiring Austin Jackson on a fielder’s choice grounder to third.
“Miller has a really good angle (on his delivery),” Morrison said. “He throws across his body, but you’ve got the bases loaded and a 3-0 count. There’s no excuse. You’ve got to come through.
“I didn’t today. I wasn’t good enough. It’s the reason we lost, for sure. I’ve got to come through with a hit or a walk there.”
The Yankees activated Tanaka from the disabled list prior to the game after clearing space by designating reliever David Carpenter for assignment.
Tanaka was diagnosed with a strained right forearm after his April 23 start at Detroit. He made two rehab starts for Scranton/Wilkes-Barre before rejoining the Yankees.
He appears healthy — although the Mariners, at this point, aren’t necessarily the best measuring stick.
“He was dealing,” Cruz confirmed. “Nothing good to hit. It was corners and down.”
Walker breezed through the first inning on 11 pitches with two strikeouts, but he served up a leadoff homer to Mark Teixeira in the second. Teixeira sent a 365-foot drive to right that just cleared the wall for his 16th homer.
The Mariners pulled even in the third after Brad Miller led off with a triple into the right-center gap. Dustin Ackley followed with a drive to left that got over the head of Ramon Flores for an RBI double.
That was it, though: One run.
Zunino struck out before Morrison then grounded a single to left, which extended his hitting streak to 11 games. Ackley tried to score from second on the play, but was thrown out easily by Flores.
“It’s real simple,” McClendon said. “We haven’t scored any runs. We had an opportunity to score a run, and we sent him. It was the right thing to do. The wrong result. The guy made a good throw.”
It didn’t stay tied long.
Walker opened the New York fourth by walking Alex Rodriguez after being ahead 0-2 in the count. Walker retired the next two hitters before committing the same sin that swallowed Joe Beimel on Tuesday.
Walker threw a down-and-in pitch to Jones, who rocked it 400 feet to right for a two-run homer. Jones turned around a similar pitch from Beimel for a three-run homer in the 11th inning Tuesday.
The Yankees led, 3-1.
That’s how it ended. The bailing continues.