PHILADELPHIA — It was a game the Mariners probably should have won and a series they needed to win.
Instead, they left Philadelphia’s Citizens Bank Park shaking their heads in frustration having made minimal progress in the race for the postseason in the past three games.
Wednesday’s 4-3 loss to the Phillies wasn’t a heartbreaker with a walkoff hit or an abysmal blowout. No, it was frustrating in its own way. It was a game there to be won, and Seattle failed thanks to a series of mistakes — both mental and physical — and missed opportunities.
“I feel like we gave the game away,” said outfielder/first baseman Logan Morrison. “We had opportunities early, errors, passed balls, wild pitches, whatever, it feels like we gave them all four runs.”
The season is winding down and the Mariners are playing for the postseason. Yes, every game counts on the schedule, but the meaning of the final 36 games of the season has escalated. The 126th game of the season was a loss and it should have been a win.
“It still hurts and it still sucks,” Morrison said. “We needed this game just like we need every game. When the opportunity is there, you have to take advantage of it. And we didn’t do that today.”
Instead, the Mariners dropped two of three to a Phillies team that is going nowhere slowly at 56-71 with the destination being 90-plus losses. It’s a team Seattle should beat two out of three games, not lose two out of three.
“We know where we are at in the race,” Morrison said. “Good teams don’t do that. Playoff teams don’t do that. We have to come out and be better. We have been and we will.”
Manager Lloyd McClendon wasn’t overly angry about the loss. He felt this was an exception to the clean baseball his team has played this season.
“To be honest with you, we’ve been pretty damn good,” McClendon said. “This is the first one he we had all year like that. A lot of things just didn’t go right.”
McClendon then knocked on the desk three times.
“Knock on wood, we’ll be OK,” he said.
In a game full of ugly innings, the fourth inning was most frustrating for the Mariners and starter James Paxton.
The rookie left-hander had just been given a 3-1 lead in the top of the fourth inning and a chance to take control of the game. Instead, it all slipped away.
Paxton (3-1) gave up three runs in the inning thanks to his own throwing error, passed ball, a wild pitch and lack of command.
“I don’t think he struggled early on,” McClendon said. “I thought he made some good pitches. They just put some pretty good at-bats on him and got his pitch count up. Things just got away from him in that one inning. Those things happen. It’s part of the growing pains.”
It led to the first loss of his big-league career. He had been 6-0 in his first nine major-league starts.
His teammates couldn’t overcome the one-run deficit, stranding base runners in each of the next five innings.
The Mariners had 12 hits, but stranded nine runners and had just two hits in nine at-bats with runners in scoring position.
Seattle never completely took advantage of the struggles of starter Cole Hamels, who lasted just five innings, giving up three runs on nine hits with a walk and two wild pitches.
In the three-run fourth-inning, Jesus Sucre missed the sign for a suicide squeeze bunt, leading to Chris Denorfia getting picked off at third and wasting a chance. In the fifth inning with runners on second and third, Ryan Howard snared Kyle Seager’s line drive down the first-base line, robbing the Mariners of two runs.
“That was tough, Seager had a good at-bat,” McClendon said. “Some days the stars just don’t align. We had some darn good at-bats all day long.”