It’s been nine years since the Mariners last played at Wrigley Field. Not long enough, apparently, if their sadly thorough surrender in Friday’s 12-1 loss to the Chicago Cubs is any indication.
The only real drama, after the Cubs struck for five early runs, was whether heavy rains in the Chicago area would stay away long enough for the game to become official.
The rains came but not with sufficient intensity to stop the game until the bottom of the seventh. That was far too late to provide any benefit to the Mariners, who trailed by 11 runs at that point.
"We got beat," said second baseman Robinson Cano, who had two of the Mariners’ eight hits. "They got men in scoring position and took advantage of pitches over the plate."
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Boy, did they. The Cubs’ 12 runs marked their highest total of the season at Wrigley. And game resumed, anyway, after a delay of 1 hour, 14 minutes, which only made a long day even longer for the Mariners.
Utility infielder Luis Sardinas pitched the eighth inning and, of course, retired three straight hitters.
Everything before that was pretty grim, although the Mariners avoided a shutout on Shawn O’Malley’s two-out RBI single in the ninth inning against former teammates Mike Montgomery.
Hisashi Iwakuma, who had won five in a row, lasted just three innings before exiting — and not for a pinch hitter. He gave up five runs and eight hits after allowing only three runs combined in his three previous starts.
"Kuma wasn’t on, obviously," manager Scott Servais said. "He had a little tightness going on. It was tough to get loose. Then he got loose, and he just wasn’t sharp."
Iwakuma said he felt loose by the time the game started.
"I didn’t feel tightness or soreness during the game," he said. "It was there when I started the bullpen, but I was able to get loose. I’m OK, though. I just couldn’t keep the ball down.
"Everything I missed was up in the zone, which kind of cost me."
It marked Iwakuma’s shortest start in nearly two years: since Aug. 24, 2014, when he exited after 2 1/3 innings in an 8-6 loss at Boston.
The Cubs rocked Iwakuma (11-7) for three two-out runs in the second inning, when Chris Coghlan supplied a two-run single. Struggling Jason Heyward delivered a two-run homer in the third inning.
It got a lot worse after Iwakuma departed, but those five early runs were plenty for Tacoma’s own Jon Lester, who turned dominant after squelching a first-inning threat.
"The same guy that I saw all those years in Boston," Cano said. "The guy knows how to pitch."
Lester (11-4) yielded four hits in six shutout innings before the Cubs went to their bullpen for Justin Grimm. It was 11-0 at that point. The rain delay started after Grimm worked one scoreless inning.
It was still 5-0 entering the Chicago sixth.
Former starter Nathan Karns had worked two scoreless innings after replacing Iwakuma, but he pancaked in what escalated into six-run sixth. After David Ross led off with a homer, Karns walked the bases loaded.
Anthony Rizzo then squibbed a grounder past third, which resulted in a three-run double for a 9-0 lead. Vidal Nuno replaced Karns, whose ERA climbed to 5.15 after giving up five runs in two-plus innings.
It probably didn’t matter, but Rizzo didn’t appear to tag up of Heyward’s foul fly to left against Nuno before scoring when Franklin Gutierrez stumbled over the bullpen mound.
The Mariners appealed the play, but umpire Eric Cooper allowed the run.
It was that kind of day.
The Cubs added another run before the inning ended. They scored their final run in the seventh inning, after play resumed, against Tom Wilhelmsen.
The loss dropped the Mariners to 51-50 with two more games remaining in Chicago before they return to Safeco Field for a 10-game homestand — the longest of the season.
"It was a bad day," Servais said. "We’ve got to get better at playing in these day games. We come out slow, it seems, for whatever reason. Against a good club, you’ve got to come out to play from the first inning on."
The Mariners are actually 18-18 in day games. On Saturday, though, it was easy to believe otherwise.
PLAY OF THE GAME: Nathan Karns gave up five runs in two-plus innings. So he had lots of problems.
But this should raise a red flag: Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo each easily stole second base in the fourth inning when Karns chose not to look to first before delivering a pitch to the plate.
Karns was also clocked at 1.75 seconds to the plate, which simply encourages opposing clubs to run.
"We haven’t seen the tick up in his stuff," manager Scott Servais said, "that we thought we might see out of the bullpen. So we need to evaluate where he’s at."
That could mean a demotion to Triple-A Tacoma.
PLUS: Infielder Luis Sardinas pitched for the first time in his seven-year professional career — at least he couldn’t remember another time — and worked a one-two-three eighth inning on eight pitches. "Just throw the ball in the middle," he said. "I didn’t try to do too much."…shortstop Shawn O’Malley went 2-for-5 and enabled the Mariners to avoid a shutout with a two-out single in the ninth…Nelson Cruz started in right field and appeared to have no problems with his sore left foot.
MINUS: Hisashi Iwakuma pitched a season-low three innings and matched a season-worst by allowing five runs…the Mariners had some chances, but they were 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position and stranded 11 runners….Nathan Karns has allowed 13 runs in 13 1/3 innings in seven outings since shifting to the bullpen.
STAT PACK: The Mariners have lost back-to-back games by 10-1 (Wednesday at Pittsburgh) and 12-1 (Friday to the Cubs).
QUOTABLE: Manager Scott Servais said he thought hard before opting to use utilityman Luis Sardinas as a pitcher in the eighth inning.
"I don’t want to do it," Servais said. "But you have to be smart and look at (Saturday’s) game. You’re down like that, it’s about the next day’s game.
"This one, it was tough to think we were going to come back. Don’t want to do it. Don’t like doing it. But sometimes, the game calls for it."
SHORT HOPS: Outfielder Guillermo Heredia made his major-league debut when he replaced Nelson Cruz in right field when play resumed after the rain delay. Heredia took a third strike in his only at-bat…Franklin Gutierrez stole his first base since Sept. 18, 2013 when he swiped second in the fifth inning…the Mariners are 10-5 in interleague games with five remaining.
Bob Dutton: @TNT_Mariners