SEATTLE — The math says the Mariners are still alive in the wild-card race, though each day their pulse is getting more difficult to detect.
A nightmarish collapse in the fourth inning Wednesday sent the Mariners to an 8-6 loss to Texas at Safeco Field. The Rangers scored seven runs in fourth thanks to three walks, two errors and a Rougned Odor grand slam.
It was too much to overcome, although the Mariners did get the go-ahead run to the plate in the seventh inning. A baserunning mistake by Ben Gamel in the eighth inning didn’t help, either.
“We’ve got to play better baseball,” Seattle manager Scott Servais said. “You’re not going to the playoffs if you continue to make errors and don’t execute in crucial situations or make pitches. That’s just where we’re at. That’s the reality of it.”
Desperately in need of a September surge to avoid extending their postseason drought to 16 seasons, the Mariners have instead lost five in a row. At 74-78, they are four games under .500 for the first time since the All-Star break.
While the Mariners remain four games behind nose-diving Minnesota in the race for the American League’s final wild-card berth, they have just 10 games remaining and must jump past three other clubs to get to the Twins.
Further, while Minnesota has lost five of its past six games, it closes the season by playing seven of its 10 remaining games against Detroit, which has lost 33 of its past 44.
A very faint pulse.
Everything started fine Wednesday for the Mariners, who took a 1-0 lead with two out in the third inning on Mitch Haniger’s 14th homer of the season.
Haniger turned on a 96-mph fastball from Texas starter Andrew Cashner on a 1-2 count and sent a drive into the seats above the line scoreboard down the left-field line.
Felix Hernandez had, at that point, retired the first nine Rangers in order, but that ended when he began the disastrous fourth inning by walking Delino DeShields.
The Mariners’ defense then betrayed Hernandez, who wasn’t nearly as sharp when pitching from the stretch with runners on base.
“I was different from the stretch than from the windup,” he said. “So maybe (that was the problem).”
Shin-Soo Choo grounded a single to right and, when Haniger bobbled the pickup, DeShields went to third. Elvis Andrus then hit a slow chopper that third baseman Kyle Seager mishandled for another error.
Had Seager made a clean pickup, he appeared to have a play at the plate on DeShields, who instead scored the tying run.
A walk to Adrian Beltre loaded the bases with no outs before Nomar Mazara grounded an 0-2 changeup into center field for a two-run single and a 3-1 lead.
“I lost my command a little bit,” Hernandez said. “I was missing, but I was missing down in the zone. Three walks and a couple of base hits.”
Hernandez (5-5) struck out Joey Gallo but exited after he reloaded the bases by walking Robinson Chirinos. In came Andrew Albers, who surrendered a grand slam to Odor on a 1-2 slider.
“Middle, middle,” Albers said. “Hung it. You know he’s going to swing. He’s an aggressive hitter. That’s got to be a better pitch.There’s just no excuse for that. That’s a pitch that just can’t happen in that situation.”
The Rangers led 7-1.
Cashner (10-10) held the Mariners to three run in six innings before four relievers closed out Texas’ victory. Alex Claudio got the final six outs for his 10th save.
Reliever Shae Simmons struck out the side in the eighth inning in continuing a strong September after spending nearly the entire season on the disabled list because of a strained right elbow.
“Shae has a really good arm and good stuff,” Servais said. “It’s nice to see him healthy. His fastball has a lot of life, and the last curveball he threw to DeShields was awesome.”
Simmons has allowed only one hit in six scoreless innings over six appearances since being activated Sept. 1 from the 60-day disabled list. He gave up seven runs and 12 hits in 11 innings over 13 rehab appearances in the minors.