ST. LOUIS — It won’t get any easier for the Seattle Mariners on this final trip of the season. In fact, it will get more difficult over the next four games.
On Sunday, the Mariners slogged through an interminable rout. Seattle starter Erasmo Ramirez wasn’t very good, and the bullpen was significantly worse as the St. Louis Cardinals pounded out 19 hits, including five for extra bases, in their 12-2 victory over the Mariners.
Seattle (66-83) dropped two of three games on the road to the Cardinals (87-62), who are trying to win the National League Central.
Now the Mariners travel to Detroit for a four-game series against the American League Central-leading Tigers. While the Tigers have a five-game lead over Cleveland, their hope of clinching home-field advantage throughout the AL playoffs is slim.
Either way, the Tigers, like the Cardinals, have legitimate World Series hopes, and the Mariners are quite the opposite. The reasons were glaringly apparent Sunday.
St. Louis entered the day with a majors-leading .326 batting average with runners in scoring position and went 7-for-15 on Sunday. The Mariners were tied for 27th in that category at .228.
After two days of not doing much offensively, the Cardinals tore open the game in the fourth inning and kept adding to the score.
“They’ve got a good veteran lineup,” Mariners manager Eric Wedge said. “If you look at their top five guys, they all have quite a bit to offer. They really put it together today.”
Yadier Molina added to his resume for the NL Most Valuable Player award, going 4-for-5. In the second inning, he crushed a home run off Ramirez to give the Cardinals a 1-0 lead.
“It was curveball,” Ramirez said. “I was supposed to throw it down. But it was down and over the middle, and he’s a good hitter. And he made me pay.”
Ramirez (5-2) seemed to right himself after Molina’s blast, retiring six of the next seven batters he faced.
The Mariners even tied the score in the fourth, when Abraham Almonte led off with a double and scored on Franklin Gutierrez’s one-out single to center. But Ramirez’s outing fell apart in the bottom of the fourth.
After getting Carlos Beltran to ground out, Ramirez gave up back-to-back singles to Molina and Matt Adams, and then plunked David Freese in the leg to load the bases.
“I don’t know what happened,” Ramirez said. “But when I released it, I knew it was going to hit him.”
Daniel Descalso looped a tiebreaking single into left field. Ramirez got Cardinals pitcher Shelby Miller (14-9) to pop up in foul territory for the second out. But the third out didn’t come right away.
Matt Carpenter hammered a two-run single to center to push the lead to 4-1. Ramirez then hit Jon Jay with a slider and gave up an RBI single to Matt Holliday.
When Ramirez finally got Beltran to ground out to end the inning, the Mariners were down 5-1 with little hope of coming back.
“He just fell out of his delivery,” Wedge said. “With that, he really lost command of the baseball. When he did throw it over, it wasn’t a pitch that was executed. It was fat and on the plate. It happened quick.”
But an overworked, ineffective Seattle bullpen turned that three-run deficit into 10 over the next five innings.
Right-hander Carter Capps faced three batters to start the fifth and didn’t record an out. He gave up a single to Molina, a two-run homer to Adams and a double to Freese.
Bobby LaFromboise came in and allowed an RBI double to Descalso and a run-scoring single to Jay.
After working a scoreless sixth inning, Chance Ruffin gave up three runs in the seventh to make it 12-2.
“Obviously, we’ve got a lot of uncertainty in our bullpen,” Wedge said. “They really struggled today.”