SEATTLE —The decision to have a “bullpen” start in Thursday’s finale of the four-game series against the Minnesota Twins didn’t result in a win for the reeling Mariners.
But it was hardly the reason for the 4-2 loss.
For yet another night, the Mariners offense struggled to score runs, but a pair of defensive miscues and mistakes on the base paths also contributed. Seattle dropped the final three of the four games against the Twins.
“People need to understand this, it’s hard to win games at this level on a nightly basis,” manager Lloyd McClendon said. “And I don’t care who you are playing, teams you think should beat or who you think you match up against, this is the big leagues. It’s tough. I was proud of the way my guys went about their business tonight.”
Still, the lack of offense always gets the first mention, and with good reason. Over their last five games, the Mariners have scored five runs.
Seattle had 12 hits for the second straight night, but went 1 for 3 with runners in scoring position and that hit didn’t drive in a run. They also stranded 10 runners. Over its last six games, Seattle is 4 for 47 with runners in scoring position.
“We got 12 hits and I feel like we lined out a bunch,” said Logan Morrison. “We had runners on and we had our chances. “
The Mariners grabbed a 1-0 lead on Kyle Seager’s solo homer to right field in the second inning. Seager jumped on a fastball from Twins starter Yohan Pino and blasted it deep into the right-field stands for his 14th long ball of the season.
Of the Twins’ four runs, three were earned. But all of the runs might have been avoided. They scored two in the top of the third.
Tom Wilhelmsen, who got the spot start, issued a one-out walk to Sam Fuld and then allowed a single to Brian Dozier. With Kurt Suzuki at the plate, the runners executed a double steal with huge jumps off Wilhelmsen. Catcher Mike Zunino forced a throw to third base but had trouble getting it around Suzuki in the batter’s box. The throw sailed into left field, allowing Fuld to trot home and Dozier to move to third. Suzuki later scored Dozier with a sacrifice fly to center to make it 2-1.
“I thought I was going to have enough room to clear (Suzuki),” Zunino said. “It’s probably best if I don’t throw that ball.”
The Twins pushed the lead to 4-1 in the fifth inning on a two-run double to center field by former Mariner Kendrys Morales off Danny Farquhar. James Jones misread the ball, not going back immediately off the bat. He made a late retreat, but couldn’t make the catch.
“It was just a bad read,” Jones said. “It was hit hard and my first step should have been back instead of trying to read it. It was hit well enough where I should have went back right away.”
Morales, who came into the series struggling and hitting just above .200, went 5 for 15 in the series with three doubles and five runs batted in.
The Mariners’ current DH didn’t have that production.
Corey Hart’s struggles since returning from the disabled list continued. Batting fifth behind Robinson Cano and Seager, he had prime chances to kickstart the Mariners’ lifeless offense. Hart came to the plate in the third with the bases loaded and two outs. After working Pino to a 3-2 count, he struck out on curveball.
Two innings later in the fifth, Hart was given a chance at redemption with the bases loaded and two outs again. But with his timing still clearly off, he hit a ground out to first base.
Hart is 5 for 25 with no extra base hits and one RBI since being activated from the disabled list.
“He’s fighting himself a little bit,” McClendon said.
Seattle cut the lead to 4-2 in the seventh inning. Endy Chavez, Jones and Cano had three straight one-out singles to load the bases. Seager hit a sacrifice fly to left field to score Chavez. But Jones got a little too risky, trying to tag from second and advance to third. Trevor Plouffe cut off the ball from left field and fired to third base.
Jones was originally ruled safe. But Twins manager Ron Gardenhire challenged the ruling and replays showed Jones’ hand coming off the base on the slide, ending the inning.
“That’s wrong on my part there,” Jones said. “We were down three runs at the time. In that situation, I should have played it safe.”