By Bob Dutton The News Tribune
SEATTLE — So how much longer do the Mariners stick with Brandon Maurer after watching him hawk up another fur ball Thursday in a 7-5 loss to the Los Angeles Angels at Safeco Field?
Maurer lasted just four innings but put the Mariners in a five-run hole that proved too much to overcome — especially when playing without Robinson Cano, who was scratched because he wasn’t feeling well.
Cano wasn’t alone by end of the night.
Maurer walked the game’s first hitter, which turned into a run. After working around trouble in the second and third innings, he cratered in a four-run fourth.
“He has struggled,” manager Lloyd McClendon conceded. “When you look at options, you have to sit down and make sure you have a viable option.
“That’s something Jack (Zduriencik, the general manager) and I will talk about and see where we go from here. We’ll see if there’s something we can do to get him straightened out.”
All four runs in the fourth scored with two outs. Erick Aybar’s three-run homer on a red-zone cookie was the key blow. Maurer, 1-4, didn’t return for the fifth, and five runs in four innings pushed his ERA to 7.52.
For all that, Maurer saw positives.
“Mentally, I felt today was the best day I’ve felt,” he said. “I felt calm. There wasn’t as much anxiety as normal. My heart rate stayed down pretty well.”
Specifically, Maurer said he didn’t let the frustration build as it has at times in the past.
“I think today was definitely a good improvement,” he said. “Numbers might not show it, but I definitely felt a lot better than I ever have out there…
“It just kind of falls apart at some point, but I’ll put one together at some point.”
If the Mariners go looking for alternatives, the likeliest candidate is Erasmo Ramirez, who worked six solid innings Thursday for Triple-A Tacoma in a 5-2 victory over Salt Lake.
Ramirez’s overall work for the Rainiers (1-3 with a 4.55 ERA) hasn’t screamed promotion, but…well, who knows? Maybe Maurer gets another look Tuesday in Atlanta.
“It’s hard to analyze right now,” McClendon said. “I’ll have to sit down and look at the tape. Obviously, what I saw wasn’t good. From a technical standpoint, I haven’t had a chance to look at the tape.”
The Mariners’ attack, sans Cano, went nine up and down through three innings against right-hander Matt Shoemaker, whom the Angels recalled Wednesday from Triple-A Salt Lake (which is playing in Tacoma).
Life sprouted in the fourth when Michael Saunders, who replaced Cano as the No. 3 hitter, drove a two-run homer to right. Saunders also had a sacrifice fly in the sixth.
That was about it until Kyle Seager hit a two-run homer in the ninth against Fernando Salas that forced the Angels to summon closer Ernesto Frieri for the final two outs.
“You didn’t want to get down by that (margin),” Seager said, “but (Shoemaker) was throwing the ball well. He kept us off-balance. Unfortunately, we weren’t quite able to get out of it.”
Shoemaker, 3-1, worked into the sixth before the Angels ran through five relievers for the final 11 outs. The Mariners settled for a split in the four-game series and slipped back below .500 at 26-27.
Maurer opened the game by walking Kole Calhoun, a .203 hitter who went to third when Aybar lashed a single to right. Mike Trout’s sacrifice fly, on a line drive to right, made it 1-0.
It was still 1-0 when C.J. Cron rocked a one-out triple off the center-field wall in the fourth. Maurer had a chance to escape after striking out Hank Conger, but Grant Green lined a two-out RBI single into center.
It got worse.
Calhoun drew a walk, and a wild pitch moved the runners to second and third. Aybar worked the count to 3-2 and, with Trout on deck, got a fastball down the middle from Maurer.
“I just missed my spot,” Maurer said. “Fastball, 3-2. Jumped on it.”
Aybar didn’t miss anything. His 388-foot drive to right easily cleared the wall for a three-run homer and a 5-0 lead.
“That two-out bug got (Maurer) again,” McClendon said. “I saw some things early one where I thought this was going to be a pretty good night. But, obviously, the results were the same.”