By Ryan Divish / The Seattle Times
SEATTLE — It wasn’t quite the dominating outing that his fellow starters Marco Gonzales, Taijuan Walker or Yusei Kikuchi had produced in the previous nights, but Kendall Graveman, with his neck aching and his jersey and cap soaked with sweat from the effort, walked off the mound with two outs in the fifth inning having not allowed a run and his team leading by a run.
Sure, he’d left a little bit of a mess to clean up like an unwanted house guest with runners on first and third. But only one out was needed.
The Mariners brought in lefty long reliever Anthony Misciewicz to try and close out the inning and give Seattle at least one more inning of work if not two.
That didn’t go quite as planned.
Misciewicz misplaced a 2-1 slider in the worst spot — over the middle of the plate — and Ramon Laureano, who seems to be the only A’s player doing much hitting in this series, crushed a three-run homer over the wall in left-center to provide the difference in Seattle’s 3-2 loss.
It was similar to Saturday night’s loss when Yusei Kikuchi left a scoreless game with a 2-0 lead and his replacement Nick Margevicius immediately up served up a two-run homer.
“Again, we’ve got young guys and we are putting them in situations and they are learning,” manager Scott Servais said. “He made a mistake, kind of like last night’s ball game. It kind of came down to one pitch. But, we are playing good baseball. That’s the key with this group. We’ve got to stay upbeat, positive and we are learning along the way.”
Two of the runs were charged to Graveman, who took the loss, one was tagged to Misciewicz and the Mariners suffered frustrating back-to-back defeats to the A’s — games they had multiple opportunities to win.
Why the left Misciewicz vs. the righty-hitting Laureano?
“I thought Miz has been throwing the ball great and he’s been one of our better guys,” Servais said. “It’s a high-leverage spot and with where we’re at in their lineup with Laureano and then Olson, coming up behind him. I think if you had to do it over again, he’d probably make a different pitch selection — maybe the harder breaking ball vs. the slower one. But these guys are learning. This part of it, understanding who they are, situations and how guys reacting to their stuff. He did go back out there, throw the zero up after that which is really important.”
The Mariners have scripted long relievers to pitch behind certain starters if they fail to reach the sixth inning. It was Misciewicz’s turn to follow off a start. Also the team is not using relievers on back-to-back days. And there is the new rule forcing relievers to face a minimum of three batters or finish the inning.
A righty that doesn’t retire Laureano in that spot must then face lefty slugger Matt Olson, who is struggling this season, but has a career .900 on-base plus slugging percentage vs. righties.
“The rule does change the game and what your are doing and how use your guys,” Servais said.
The Mariners did little offensively to offset the miscue from the bullpen. They mustered one run against A’s starter Chris Bassitt on a first-inning RBI single from Daniel Vogelbach, who had been mothballed on the bench due to poor performance.
With the Mariners trailing 3-1 and hitless in his first three plate appearances with a pair of strikeouts, Kyle Lewis continued his streak of hitting in every game this season, smashing a solo homerun off of Yusmeiro Petit in the eighth inning. Lewis annihilated an 89-mph fastball, sending a majestic shot into the now vacant area known as The ‘Pen, where most fans didn’t really watch the game anyway.
Lewis came into the day with a MLB-leading 16 hits and his now 10-game hitting streak is tied with Atlanta’s Dansby Swanson as the longest in baseball.
Graveman worked four scoreless innings, allowing just two hits. But his command wasn’t particularly crisp at times. He struggled to spot his sinker — his best pitch — to left-handed hitters, not getting any weak groundballs or swings and misses. They weren’t pitches that hitters really wanted to offer at. And it just built up his pitch count.
He never made it out of the fifth inning despite retiring the first two batters. A walk to No. 9 hitter Tony Kemp and an infield single to Marcus Semien ended his outing at 94 pitches.