CHICAGO — Unlike earlier games in their unexpected hot start to the season, the Seattle Mariners’ home-run fueled offense couldn’t best the bad pitching from the bullpen and botched plays in the field.
In a 10-8 loss to the Chicago White Sox on Friday, the Mariners continued to display what feels like their own personal “three true outcomes” — hitting big homers, making costly errors and poor pitching from the bullpen — and unlike Jimmy Steinman’s lyrics for Mr. Meat Loaf, those two out of three are bad.
After overcoming a three-error adventure from shortstop Tim Beckham in the first inning and a shaky first few innings from starter Yusei Kikuchi, the Mariners had seemingly secured yet another unlikely victory when Ryon Healy and Mitch Haniger each crushed a two-run home run in the sixth inning. Their rally from a 6-1 deficit after the second inning was complete with an 8-6 lead.
But the Mariners bullpen — specifically right-hander Cory Gearrin — imploded in the bottom of the seventh, coughing up that two-run lead in what eventually became a disappointing loss on a chilly home opener at Chicago’s Guaranteed Rate Field.
“You battle back and you think you are in a pretty good spot,” manager Scott Servais said.
Indeed, Servais asked Gearrin to come into a seventh inning with a two-run lead and a slew of right-handed hitters scheduled to bat in the frame. Even with Gearrin having a walk-filled showing in his last outing, this seemed like an optimal scenario for a pitcher that supposedly specializes in getting right-handed hitters out. But he’s shown fleeting evidence of that this season, or the ability to get any hitters out.
Gearrin walked the first two batters on eight pitches, which usually doesn’t lead to optimal success. After Jose Abreu helped him out, swinging at what would have been the 11th consecutive ball he’d thrown, Gearrin should’ve gotten at least one out two pitches later. Abreu hit a soft ground ball to shortstop that needed to be an out. Beckham fielded it cleanly and flipped the ball to second, but a hustling Tim Anderson slid in head first to beat the throw. Dylan Moore’s subsequent throw to first base wasn’t in time get the sprinting, but not speedy Abreu. The Mariners failed to get an out. It wasn’t an error, but it was a mistake.
“I didn’t realize the first baseman was playing back and (Anderson) had a really big lead and he just beat the throw to second,” Beckham said.
With the bases loaded, Gearrin hit Welington Castillo with the first pitch of the at-bat to force a run across. That ended his outing, in which he threw 14 pitches, three for “strikes.” He never recorded an out, while walking two batters and hitting one.
“I have to make an adjustment,” he said. “It’s clearly something I have to do right now. There’s no excuse for it. You’re paid to go out there and throw strikes. And that’s what I’ve got to do.”
In his previous outing against the Red Sox, Gearrin pitched 1/3 of an inning, walking three batters and throwing four strikes in 16 pitches. The Mariners still managed to win that game.
Servais hoped Gearrin’s experience would help him solve the issue in the inning. It’s why he didn’t pull him after the two walks.
“He’s just missing the strike zone and getting behind in counts,” Servais said. “He’s been in this league for long time and he has a track record of getting them out. Really that soft ground ball to short hurt. That was the key play in that inning and you have to get an out there. It was a big out in the inning and we didn’t get it and the walks led to the trouble there.”
Gearrin’s replacement, Zac Rosscup, then gave up a two-run single to the hot-hitting Yoan Moncada to give the White Sox the lead for good. It was the only hit of a three-run inning that saw all nine batters for Chicago come to the plate.
The White Sox tacked on another run in the eighth inning on a solo homer from Anderson.
While the seventh inning highlighted the Mariners’ bullpen deficiencies, the first inning showcased the defensive inconsistency.
After Domingo Santana’s solo homer in the first inning gave Seattle a brief lead, the White Sox answered with three runs in the bottom of the frame off of Kikuchi.
Beckham booted a routine ground ball off the bat of leadoff hitter Leury Garcia to start the problems. Anderson followed with a single to put runners on first and second with no outs. Kikuchi got Abreu to hit into what should’ve been an easy 6-4-3 double play. But Beckham mishandled the ground ball and with no chance at second, he fired wildly to first base. Jay Bruce couldn’t hang on to the throw as he got pulled into foul territory. Garcia read the play and raced home for a run.
With the bases loaded, Moncada hit a rocket to right-center. Mallex Smith tried to make grand slam-saving catch. He didn’t make the catch, but he saved it from being a grand slam. Smith made a leaping attempt, but the ball came out of his glove as he collided with the wall. Moncada settled for a two-run double and a 3-1 lead. Two of the three runs were unearned. But if that double play is turned, it’s probably a scoreless inning.
“It’s frustrating for me,” Beckham said. “I played terrible defense today and they shouldn’t have scored those three runs in the first. It’s on me. And it won’t happen again.”
Chicago tacked on three more runs in the second inning off of Kikuchi to push the lead to 6-1.
“I wasn’t able to stop their momentum,” Kikuchi said through translator Justin Novak.
But he settled in and retired 10 of the last 11 batters he faced to go five innings, allowing six runs (four earned) on seven hits with a walk and four strikeouts.
“His stuff wasn’t as sharp as the first couple of outings,” Servais said. “But he did a great job of hanging in there and give us a chance to win.”
The Mariners chipped away at the White Sox’s lead. They picked up a run in third and two more in the fourth, highlighted by Daniel Vogelbach’s solo homer to left. It was his second homer in as many games.
In the sixth with White Sox starter Reynaldo Lopez tiring, Healy bashed a two-run homer to left to tie the game at 6-6. It was his third homer of the season. Later in the inning, facing lefty Jacy Fry, Haniger crushed a changeup over the wall in center for a two-run homer and an 8-6 lead.
The Mariners have homered in all of nine of their games this season. They’ve hit 19 homers and committed 16 errors as a team.
“Nothing wrong with our offense right now,” Servais said. “That’s for sure.”