By Bob Dutton The News Tribune
PHILADELPHIA — It’s been a while since the Seattle Mariners served up something that resembles the back end of a dog’s dinner, so maybe this was overdue.
As a once-in-a-great-while thing, Monday’s 4-1 loss to struggling Philadelphia should be easy to flush from the system. Should be, anyway, for a club that views itself as a legitimate postseason contender.
“It was one of those games,” second baseman Robinson Cano said, “where even when you got your pitch right down the middle, you missed it.
“There were some pitches over the plate, and we missed them, popped out or hit a ground ball. Tomorrow is another day.”
A prime example came in the eighth inning when the Mariners, finally, showed some life. They had runners at second and third with one out after an RBI double by Dustin Ackley.
Cano and Kendrys Morales — “our guys,” as manager Lloyd McClendon said — came to the plate against reliever Ken Giles. Both struck out swinging. And that, pretty much, was that.
“We just didn’t get it done tonight,” McClendon noted.
This one was night soil almost from the beginning.
Rookie lefty Roenis Elias (9-10) returned to the Mariners’ rotation after a 10-day sabbatical at Triple-A Tacoma and battled command issues in throwing 90 pitches in just four innings.
Elias walked a career-high six, including two in the third inning before yielding a two-out RBI double to Marlon Byrd.
(That would be the same Marlon Byrd, by the way, who wouldn’t waive his no-trade clause to the Mariners a few weeks ago unless they agreed to pick up his $8 million option for 2016.)
“I was a little erratic with my fastball,” Elias said, “but I felt good. It was just a baseball thing.”
The loss dropped the Mariners (67-57) into a tie with idle Detroit for the AL’s final wild-card spot. They also fell 61⁄2 games behind first-place Los Angeles in the American League West.
Elias dismissed any connection between his control issues and his time away from the big-league club.
“No-no-no,” he said. “That was not a factor. It was just baseball. It just wasn’t my day.”
The Phillies surged to a 4-0 lead in the fifth inning against reliever Dominic Leone when light-hitting Andres Blanco hit the fourth homer of his seven-year career and his first since July 1, 2011.
“He just left a slider in the middle of the plate,” McClendon said. “The kid (Blanco) put a pretty good swing on it.”
Blanco drove the ball into the right-field seats after Leone allowed a double and a walk.
Meanwhile, a Mariners’ attack that had, encouragingly, averaged more than five runs a game since the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline, turtled against Phillies right-hander Jerome Williams.
And, yes, that’s the same Jerome Williams cast off earlier this season by American League West also-rans Texas and Houston after spending the previous three years with the Angels.
Now, though, Williams has a new catcher in Carlos Ruiz.
“My game plan wasn’t working this year,” Williams admitted. “That’s why I’m on my third team. We’re just using the same weapons, but moving the ball around. With Chooch behind the plate, I trust him.
“I was hard-headed before. I wanted to do it my way. My way got me off two teams.”
Williams (1-0) carried a three-hit shutout into the eighth before exiting after hitting Chris Taylor to start the inning.
“He pitched (well),” Cano said, “but we also got ourselves out. We chased pitches. … You’re not always going to win the battle. This was his day. You’ve got to give him the credit.”
Giles replaced Williams with Taylor at first and things finally got interesting. Giles gave up a pinch single to Endy Chavez and Ackley’s RBI double. Ackley had three of the Mariners’ six hits.
But Giles then squelched the comeback by striking out Cano and Morales before Jonathan Papelbon closed out Williams’ victory with a scoreless ninth for his 29th save.