It’s pretty simple, really. If the Mariners are going to be the club they believe they can be, they can’t keep losing games they should win. That happened again Thursday (VIDEO LINK) in a 9-6 loss to the Oakland Athletics.
The Mariners started James Paxton, who had not surrendered a run in his first three starts, against an someone called Cesar Valdez, an emergency call-up from the minors who had not pitched in the big leagues since 2010.
And the Mariners grabbed an early three-run lead. A true contender can’t lose that game, but the Mariners found a way. That makes three road losses in games they probably should have won and explains why they are 1-7 on the road.
Three takeaways from Thursday’s loss:
***The mix matters: Paxton couldn’t land his curveball for strikes, which took the Athletics about two innings to figure out. Once they did, they sat on the fastball and spanked Paxton (VIDEO LINK) for five runs and nine hits.
Paxton said his fastball location wasn’t great, but he still had eight strikeouts in 4 1/3 innings. But one pitch wasn’t enough.
***Penalty for no knockout: The Mariners scored six runs and, particularly with Paxton on the mound, that should be enough. The Mariners were also 4-for-9 with runners in scoring position — far better than they’ve typically done to date.
But they had Valdez on the ropes in the first two innings (VIDEO LINK) and let him slip away. They then let him find a comfort zone before the Athletics, sensing an opportunity to snatch a victory, went to their bullpen, which is a strength.
That failure to capitalize completely proved costly.
***Middle bullpen blues: When Taylor Motter erased a two-run deficit with a homer in the sixth inning, the game shifted to a battle of bullpens — and the Mariners blinked first and blinked hard.
Evan Scribner served up a leadoff double in the Oakland sixth to a struggling hitter, Josh Phegley, after jumping ahead 0-2 in the count. Dan Altavilla then issued two walks in the seventh inning before giving up a homer (VIDEO LINK) to Trevor Plouffe.
Scribner and Altavilla are key pieces in the Mariners’ bullpen. Scribner has allowed six runs in 5 1/3 innings, while Altavilla, after a strong start to the season, has allowed seven runs in his last 3 1/3 innings.
Bob Dutton: @TNT_Mariners