By Larry LaRue The News Tribune
SEATTLE — The team with baseball’s worst record arrived at Safeco Field on Tuesday, a staggering San Diego group that seemed teed up and ready to be hammered.
The Seattle Mariners did the unthinkable and lost three consecutive games to the Padres, the last one a 6-2 defeat Wednesday.
And that was after manager Eric Wedge’s pre-game meeting with the Mariners hitters, who had collectively batted .199 at home in 2012.
What followed wasn’t pretty – the Mariners didn’t get their second hit until the sixth inning. They didn’t get their first run until the seventh, and by then the Padres had six.
The Mariners finished with five hits, all singles.
“It’s there in black and white,” Wedge said of the Mariners offensive problems at Safeco Field. “We’ve got to get out of this funk a home.”
That .199 team average at home is the lowest among major league baseball’s 30 teams, trailing No. 29 Oakland by 14 points. Granted, the Mariners have only played 28 games at home.
In those, however, they’re now 10-18.
After coming home from a 5-4 trip in which they’d score 10 runs or more three times, the Mariners had every reason to think they’d turned a corner offensively.
They no-hit the Dodgers and won a marvelous game, 1-0.
Since then, they’ve lose five in a row – and scored 10 runs in those five losses.
On the road, this team has batted .257 – ranking ninth in the big leagues. At home, not even a 3.41 earned run average at home has saved them.
“On the road, we’ve set the tone early, gotten out to a lead,” Wedge said. “We’re not doing that at home.”
At Safeco Field, a significant drop off in the Mariners power numbers is understandable – it’s a ball park where the ball doesn’t carry, especially in cool weather.
But exactly why that’s kept them from hitting for average? No one seems to have an answer to that.
Certainly, the Padres had no problems in their three games here.
Mariners rookie Erasmo Ramirez was broken in early in his first big-leaue start, shown that no matter how well he might pitch, the best he could do was maintain a scoreless tie. For four innings, he did his part, shutting out San Diego.
Then came a fifth inning in which the Padres parlayed a ground ball single, and a bloop single.
Then the inning got away. On a sacrifice bunt attempt, catcher John Baker dropped one toward third base and the Mariners had a play on.
“On that play, the ball is Ramirez’s,” Wedge explained. “(Kyle) Seager read it and went to the bag. If Ramirez fields it, we get the runner at third and it’s an entirely different inning.”
Instead, the bunt loaded the bases with no one out.
After a pop out, Ramirez gave up a single to Will Venable to get one run home, and two more scored on a fielders choice and an error on a double play pivot by Dustin Ackley and San Diego took a 3-0 lead.
That lead might as well have been 10 runs.
And when the Padres pushed across three more in the sixth inning – while the Mariners were still sitting on one hit – no one in the Safeco Field crowd of 17,306 truly doubted the outcome.
“We’re facing the same teams, the same pitchers we faced on the road,” Wedge said.
When Seattle did push across a run in the seventh inning, the rally was begun with a one-out walk to Franklin Gutierrrez, then back-to-back two-out singles by Ichiro and Ackley.
And inning later, Gutierrez singled home Justin Smoak, who’d walked.
The Mariners used four relievers over the final four innings, beginning with long reliever Hisashi Iwakuma, who faced one batter – outfielder Jesus Guzman – allowed a single and was pulled in favor of lefty Charlie Furbush.
“We wanted to get these guys back out there, get them a little work,” Wedge said.
Furbush worked a scoreless inning, Steve Delabar pitched two and Tom Wilhelmsen, who needed the work, put in a scoreless ninth inning.
It was solid relief work, if slightly unorthodox. Unfortunately, the Mariners offense did what it had done all season. The result was unavoidable.