A seemingly lopsided trade. Then, an absolutely lopsided loss.
The Mariners announced early in Sunday’s series finale against the Los Angeles Angels they had traded veteran Jay Bruce to Philadelphia for a Class-A infielder and “cash considerations.” Those considerations: the Mariners paying the Phillies more than $18.5 million of the $21.3 million Bruce is owed the next 1 1/2 seasons.
Just as they were announcing that latest back-pedal in their 2019 “step-back” plan, the Mariners gave up seven runs in the top of the second to the visiting Angels. Three of those came on Albert Pujols’ towering home run off Marco Gonzalez. It soared well over L.A.’s bullpen, far beyond left field.
That’s how the Mariners lost a top slugger, a willing clubhouse teacher for all their kids, $18.5 million and their 14th game in 17 tries, 13-3 to the Angles at otherwise-sunny T-Mobile Park.
Marco Gonzalez (5-6) allowed a career-high 10 earned runs overall in 4 2/3 innings. Seattle’s opening-night starter hasn’t won a game since April.
That’s the month in which the Mariners once had a record of 13-2.
Did 13-2 really happen?
Mariners manager Scott Servais says it’s almost like opponents know what pitches Gonzales is about to throw.
After this latest face plant, Servais was particularly perturbed. He said changes are coming with is stepping (way) back Mariners.
“We’ve played this game a few times this year,” the manager said.
“About had enough of it, quite frankly.”
He sounded far less patient than he’s been through the early months of this season’s rebuild.
Seattle has lost 10 of its last 11 series dating to April 25-26, when Gonzales got his last win to improve to 5-0.
The Mariners lost three of four games in this extended weekend series to the Angels. Los Angeles out-scored Seattle 31-13 in the series.
The Mariners allowed 10 or more runs in a game for the 13th time this season. This was game 62. So 21 percent of the time Seattle is giving up 10 or more runs.
They’ve lost 16 times this season by four runs or more. That’s nearly half (43 percent) of Seattle’s 37 defeats.
“When you don’t throw strikes, you don’t play defense, you don’t make plays, it’s hard to watch,” Servais said. “You are going to have ups and downs with the bat. But you’ve got to make plays. You have to throw strikes. And when that doesn’t happen, it’s bad baseball, is what it is.
“I know we are young, in some spots. We are inexperienced in some other spots. But you have to continue to do the right things. It’s about throwing it over the plate, and catching the ball.”
“We will switch up things a little bit,” Servais said of Monday’s opener of a four-game home series against first-place Houston. “We are going to run an opener out there, and (usual starter) Wade LeBlanc will pitch after that...
Sunday’s Mariners highlight was something that should not happen, only in the bleakest of circumstances: backup catcher Tom Murphy pitching in relief, in the top of the ninth. He got a first-pitch fly out and would have had two consecutive outs, but Kyle Seager’s throwing error ruined a ground out. Then Murphy got Jonathan Lucroy to hit into a double play to end his scoreless inning.
It was Murphy’s third pitching appearance this season.
The Mariners (25-37) managed just two runs on two ground outs and Seager’s first home run since last Sept. 19 off Angels starter Jose Suarez, in his major-league debut.
The Mariners’ only win this weekend was in Jay Bruce’s last game for Seattle. He hit his 300th career home run Friday in a 4-3 victory. Sunday, the 32-year-old Bruce got traded to the Phillies for Class-A infielder Jake Scheiner and all that Seattle money to Philadelphia, so the Mariners could open up roster space for more and cheaper youth by which to rebuild.
Seattle has gone 12-35 since its historic start—its mirage—ended on April 12.
Two sequences, one on offense the other defense, exemplified the Mariners’ day. And season.
Down 7-2, Edwin Encarnacion singled and Suarez (1-0) walked Domingo Santana to begin the bottom of the fourth. After Seager popped out, Tim Beckham fell behind in the count 0-2.
Suarez’s third pitch was a sharp breaking ball that dived inside, toward Beckham’s shoes. The fooled Mariner checked his swing. He placed his stopped bat like a paddle, directly onto the ball. It careened on a hop to Angles shortstop David Fletcher near second base. Fletcher stepped on the bag then threw to first to complete the accidental double play and end the Mariners’ chance to rally when their deficit wasn’t so ridiculous.
Ridiculous arrived in the ensuing top of the fifth.
Two walks by Gonzales and a hit loaded the bases with one out. Servais replaced his starter with Connor Sadzeck, out of a bullpen that has been a disaster this season.
Sadzeck’s first pitch: past catcher Omar Narvaez all the way to the backstop to score a run.
Sadzeck then walked a batter and gave up a two-run single to Mike Trout. That made it 10-2 Angels. Seager had Shohei Otani’s line drive to him at third base go off his glove for an error. That loaded the bases with two outs. Pujols then hit another soaring fly ball, to center field. Mallex Smith did not use his glove to block out the sun, relying on his shades.
They failed him.
The ball Smith never saw landed about three feet to the center fielder’s left, onto the warning track. It bounded over the wall for a two-run double. Seattle was down 12-2.
As if that, this day and this season weren’t bad enough for the Mariners: Angels number-nine hitter Luis Rengifo hit his first career home run in the sixth off Chasen Bradford—and off the facing of the third deck just to the left of the Hit It Here Cafe sign well above right field.
That made it 13-2, and a long Mariners Sunday even longer.
Amid all that’s going wrong for Seattle, Gonzales says it starts with him and his fellow pitchers.
“It starts with being accountable. The way that I pitched is just unacceptable,” Gonzales said. “Not giving my team a chance to win...”
Gonzales bemoaned falling behind in counts, and not putting batters aid it “could be” that he’s tipping his pitches.
“But I’m not going to make that excuse. I’m not going to be that guy. ...
“It’s lack of conviction...More than anything, it’s a mindset of being aggressive, of shutting people down. That’s something that’s been missing in that part of my game.”
On these Mariners, he’s not alone.