By Ryan Divish The News Tribune
SEATTLE In the search for positives on Saturday night, the Seattle Mariners did score a run.
So there’s that.
But it was only the one run in a 5-1 loss to the Los Angeles Angels and manager Eric Wedge remains winless in his return to the team.
Seattle’s offense, which has never been considered potent or consistent, has been nowhere near either since returning to Safeco Field.
The Mariners have scored just one run in the last 19 innings, which included 16 straight scoreless innings. Those few weeks in July where the Mariners had a productive offense are fading faster than the memories of past postseason appearances.
“There wasn’t much to talk about offensively,” Wedge said. “We didn’t do much. We spread out some hits there and there, but we never really put anything together.”
It’s not as though Seattle faced Cy Young level pitching from the Angels in the last two games.
On Friday night, talented but erratic starter Garrett Richards pitched 71⁄3 shutout innings and on Saturday, old friend and teammate, Jason Vargas tossed six innings of scoreless baseball before surrendering a run.
That run was far from dramatic. With the Mariners down 3-0, Humberto Quintero led off the seventh with a single to left. Dustin Ackley advanced Quintero to third with a single to right. Wedge called on Nick Franklin, who had been out of the starting line-up for the past three games because of a knee injury, to pinch hit for Brendan Ryan. Franklin was able to score Quintero with a sharp ground ball out to left side.
But that was it. That was the run for the night.
“I’ve only been back for a couple days, but I haven’t been pleased with what I’ve seen with our approach up there,” Wedge said. “When we are good, we are hitting fastballs. We were fouling fastballs back and swinging through pitches. I thought we did a lot of chasing today on breaking balls out of the zone. That’s not a good combination — missing fastballs and chasing breaking balls out of the zone.”
It’s exactly what the Mariners weren’t doing in July when they averaged 5.2 runs per game, while hitting .264 with 35 homers and a .772 on-base plus slugging percentage. On Saturday night, they were 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position and stranded nine runners.
“I know we are better than that,” Wedge said. “We are deep enough in the season that we should be better than that. We are a lot better than what we’ve seen these last couple of nights.”
With the recent offensive struggles, the Mariners were in trouble from the very beginning.
There was nothing innocent about the way the first inning started. Mariners’ starter Erasmo Ramirez issued a one-out walk to Erick Aybar and then hung change-up to Mike Trout — the last person you want to do such a thing to.
Trout crushed the pitch, hitting a majestic blast over the wall in center field for his 22nd second home run of the year and giving the Angels a 2-0 lead.
“It was in the middle of the plate,” Ramirez said. “I was ahead in the count and I can’t make that mistake to a great hitter. There isn’t chance he’s going to miss it. And he didn’t.”
But Ramirez didn’t fall apart. He came back and worked five scoreless innings and into the seventh inning. He got a little help from his defense. In the second inning, Endy Chavez robbed Hank Conger of what appeared to be a solo home run with a leaping grab over the wall in right field.
“I saw the ball and I saw the fence too and I was thinking about climbing the wall,” said Chavez, who also had three hits on the night. “But I saw that with a jump I could make the catch and that’s what I did.”
Unfortunately for Chavez, he also cost Ramirez a run in the seventh inning.
Ramirez appeared to have worked himself out of a jam, getting a Trout to fly out to softly with two outs and a runner on third. Chavez and center fielder Dustin Ackley both converged on the ball. Chavez called for the ball with Ackley having little chance to get there. But he couldn’t make the running catch. The ball hit on the heel of his glove and bounced out allowing the run to score.
“There’s no excuse,” he said. “I got to that point. I have to make that catch.”
There aren’t any excuses for the Mariners’ offense either.
Even in the seventh when they got the one run, there was a chance to get more. Dustin Ackley was standing on third with one out and the defense was playing back willing to forgo the run for an out.
But Brad Miller struck out, Kyle Seager was hit by a pitch and Kendrys Morales struck out — inning over.
The lead got pushed to 5-1 in the eighth inning. Wedge called on long reliever Brandon Maurer and he gave up a single to Mark Trumbo, a triple to Kole Calhoun and a single to Chris Nelson in the first three batters he faced as two runs came across.
“We just can’t keep going to (Yoervis) Medina and (Danny) Farquhar,” Wedge said. “We need use these other guys too. Maurer has enough stuff to pitch anywhere in the ballgame.”
The runs Maurer surrendered mattered little since the Mariners were scoring little.
Vargas got the win to improve to 7-5 on the season with a 3.77 earned run average.
Ramirez was saddled with his first loss of the season, falling to 4-1.