Mariners Insider Blog

Servais says Mariners ‘at critical point’ as skid deepens

Mariners starting pitcher Ariel Miranda gave up four runs in the first and six in his five innings Wednesday against the Kansas City Royals. Seattle went on to lose, 9-6, in 10 innings.
Mariners starting pitcher Ariel Miranda gave up four runs in the first and six in his five innings Wednesday against the Kansas City Royals. Seattle went on to lose, 9-6, in 10 innings. AP

Suddenly the All-Star break can’t get here quickly enough for the Mariners.

Even after overcoming an early four-run deficit Wednesday night, the Mariners continued their summer swoon with a 9-6 loss to Kansas City in 10 innings.

Salvy Perez’s two-run homer against James Pazos was the decisive blow and enabled the Royals to sweep the three-game series at Safeco Field.

“I liked my chances there to get him out nine out of nine,” Pazos said. “Or nine out of 10. He got me today. I think he was just looking for a pitch in one spot, and he got it.”

The Mariners have now lost eight of their last 10, including seven in a row at home. They conclude their pre-break schedule with a four-game series against Oakland, which begins Thursday at Safeco.

“It’s a critical point in our season right now,” manager Scott Servais said. “It really is. We haven’t played well over the last 10 days or so.

“We’ve got to get it turned around and moving in the right direction heading into the All-Star break.”

There were some positive signs.

Kansas City scored four runs in the first inning against Ariel Miranda, but the Mariners struck back against Jason Vargas, who entered the game with an American League-leading 2.22 ERA.

The Mariners scored twice in the first, got homers from Mike Zunino and Jean Segura in a three-run second inning before pushing out to a 6-4 lead on Nelson Cruz’s leadoff homer in the third.

After that, though, nothing.

The Royals pulled even in Lorenzo Cain’s two-run homer in the fifth against Miranda. It stayed 6-6 until the 10th inning, which started with Robinson Cano booting Cain’s routine grounder to second.

Eric Hosmer’s soft grounder to third resulted in a force at second before Perez drove an 0-1 sinker over the right-field wall. The Royals added another run before the inning ended.

“We weren’t expecting this,” Cruz said. “The offense was there today. I think we did a nice job of coming back from behind. It felt like, `We got it.’ They got some clutch hits, and their bullpen did a good job, too.”

Mike Minor (5-1) got the victory, after pitching a scoreless ninth, when Kelvin Herrera closed out the Mariners for his 19th save. Pazos (2-2) was the loser.

Kansas City has won 18 of its last 24.

Miranda and Vargas each gave up six runs while lasting just five innings. Vargas’ ERA jumped to 2.62.

Most of the fireworks came early.

First, Kansas City jumped all over Miranda in the first inning.

Whit Merrifield led off with a single and went to second on a ground out. After Cain walked, Hosmer drove a two-run double to center. With two outs, Mike Moustakas drove an 0-2 slider over the right-field wall.

That meant a 4-0 lead for Vargas, who had allowed more the four runs just once in 16 previous starts.

Nobody told the Mariners, who answered with two runs later in the first on singles by Segura, Cano and Ben Gamel.

Mike Zunino pulled the Mariners to within 4-3 when he turned on a first-pitch changeup from Vargas for a leadoff homer in the second inning. It was the Mariners’ first extra-base hit in 21 innings.

And the Mariners kept coming.

Jarrod Dyson walked, stole second and went to third on a wild pitch before Segura sent a 402-foot drive over the center-field wall for a two-run homer and a 5-4 lead.

Cruz led off the third with a 410-foot drive to left for his first homer since June 4. It was also his fifth homer in 32 career at-bats against Vargas.

The Mariners led 6-4, but Kansas City pulled even on Cain’s 427-foot bomb with two outs in the fifth inning.

Cruz just missed a second homer in the fifth inning but tried for a double on a ball that hit off the top of the wall. He was thrown out by left fielder Alex Gordon, a four-time Gold Glove recipient.

PLAY OF THE GAME: Dyson won his first baserunning matchup against Perez, a former teammate who will be the American League’s starting catcher for a fourth straight year next week in the All-Star Game.

Dyson stole second base in the second inning. It was his 20th steal of the season.

PLUS: Gamel went 2-for-4, which raised his average to .335. He also now has sufficient plate appearances to qualify among the batting leaders — and he leads the league… Tony Zych worked 2 1/3 scoreless innings after replacing Miranda to start the sixth inning…S egura went 2-for-5 and is batting .351 (20-for-57) in 13 games since returning from the disabled list. His overall average is up to .343.

MINUS: Cruz needs to stop trying to stretch singles into doubles. He was thrown out again…Cano’s error in the 10th inning was his fifth of the season. He only had three in all of last season…Mitch Haniger was 0-for-4 and is hitless in his last 15 at-bats.

STAT PACK: The Mariners had just two hits after the third inning.

QUOTABLE: “We needed to have that ballgame tonight,” Servais said, “and we didn’t get the big hit when we needed it. They kept more pressure on us than we put on them tonight.”

SHORT HOPS: Perez’s homer was the first of his career in extra innings… Cruz’s streak of 87 at-bats between homers was the third-longest of his career… Moustakas’ 25 homers are tied for the most in AL history by a third baseman prior to the All-Star break. Todd Frazier (2016), Troy Glaus (2000) and Al Rosen (1950) also had 25… The Royals completed their first sweep at Safeco Field since July 5-7, 2010… The Mariners are 1-5 in extra-inning games.

ON DECK: The Mariners close their pre-break schedule with a four-game weekend series against Oakland that begins at 7:10 p.m. Thursday at Safeco Field.

Right-hander Sam Gaviglio (3-3 with a 3.48 ERA) will face Athletics right-hander Paul Blackburn (0-0, 0.00), a one-time Mariners farmhand who is making his second major-league start.

The Mariners acquired Blackburn with first baseman Dan Vogelbach from the Chicago Cubs in a July 20, 2016 trade for left-hander Mike Montgomery and right-hander Jordan Pries.

The Mariners traded Blackburn to Oakland on Nov. 12 for first baseman Danny Valencia. Blackburn, 23, pitched six scoreless innings on July 1 against Atlanta in his big-league debut.

The game can be seen on Root Sports Northwest and heard on 710 ESPN and the Mariners Radio Network.

Bob Dutton: @TNT_Mariners