By Ryan Divish The News Tribune
ST. LOUIS — It won’t get any easier for the Seattle Mariners on this final road trip of the season. In fact, it will get more difficult over the next four days.
On Sunday, they slogged their way through an interminable rout in a game that somehow seemed worse than its lopsided score. Starter Erasmo Ramirez wasn’t very good in his outing and the bullpen behind him was significantly worse as the St. Louis Cardinals pounded out 19 hits, including five extra-base hits in a 12-2 sleeper of a loss for the Mariners.
Seattle, which fell to 66-83 on the season, dropped two of three games at Busch Stadium to a Cardinals team that’s in the middle of a postseason push to win the National League Central Division and improved to 87-62.
Now the Mariners travel to Detroit to face the American League Central leading Tigers for four games. While it appears the Tigers have basically clinched their division with a six-game lead over Cleveland, they still have a very slim hope of clinching home field advantage throughout the playoffs.
Either way, the Tigers, like the Cardinals, have legitimate World Series hopes. The Mariners are quite the opposite. And the reasons were glaringly apparent on Sunday.
St. Louis came into Sunday leading all of baseball with a .326 batting average with runners in scoring position, whereas the Mariners are 27th at .228. The Cardinals showed why, going 7-for-15 in the game with runners in scoring position.
After two days of not doing much offensively, St. Louis tore the game open in the fourth inning and kept adding.
“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 National League Most Valuable Player award going 4-for-5. In the second inning, he crushed a solo home run off Ramirez to give St. Louis 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 seemed to right himself after Molina’s home run. He retired seven of the next batters he faced. The Mariners tied the score in the top of fourth. Abraham Almonte led off the inning with a double and scored on Franklin Gutierrez’s 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 what happened,” Ramirez said. “But when I released it I knew it was going to hit him.”
Daniel Descalso’s RBI single gave the Cardinals a 2-1 lead. Ramirez got the pitcher Shelby Miller to pop up in foul territory for the second out. But the third out wouldn’t come right away. Matt Carpenter singled to center to score two runs and push the lead to 4-1. Ramirez then hit John Jay with a curve ball and gave up an infield single to Matt Holliday to score another run.
When he finally got Beltran to ground out to end the inning, the Mariners were down 5-1 with little possibility of coming back.
So what happened?
“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.”
Ramirez wasn’t sure why it happened.
“I was behind in the count in that inning,” Ramirez said. “I don’t know. The ball was running to everywhere. It’s not an excuse. I have to control that. They good advantage of every mistake I made.”
After giving up the four-run fourth, the Mariners did have a small answer. Endy Chavez, who pinch hit for Ramirez, reached on an error and later scored on Almonte’s sacrifice fly to make it 5-2.
But an overworked and ineffective Mariners bullpen turned a 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 Matt Adams and a double to Freese, who would score on a Descalso double off of Bobby LaFromboise. St. Louis added another run off of LaFromboise in the inning.
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.”