CLEVELAND — A bullpen that was thought to be a problem coming into the season has somehow managed to be worse than the minimal expectations. And the Seattle Mariners losing streak has now snowballed to six games.
Carlos Santana, who was a member of the Mariners for about 10 days this offseason, came back to haunt his “former” team by blasting a two-run homer off of reliever Connor Sadzeck in bottom of the eighth inning to change a one-run deficit for Cleveland into an eventual 5-4 win.
It was the second straight game the Mariners’ bullpen took the loss.
“They got the big hit at the end just like they did last night,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said.
Seattle seemed poised to break the losing streak when Tim Beckham smashed a solo homer to center field off of Indians starter Carlos Carrasco to give Seattle a 4-3 lead in the top of the eighth. Beckham’s solo shot was one of four solo homers the Mariners hit in the game.
“We did what we do and hit some homers,” Servais said. “Unfortunately, they were all solo homers.”
But Seattle’s bullpen still had to cover six more outs, which isn’t a simple task for the patchwork group.
Roenis Elias, who had pitched a perfect 1-2-3 seventh inning, returned to the mound for the eighth. But since he hadn’t pitched in seven days due to arm soreness, the Mariners weren’t going to let Elias throw more than 30 pitches in the outing. After giving up a leadoff single to Francisco Lindor and retiring the next two batters, Elias was at 27 pitches.
With the switch-hitting Santana coming to the plate, the Mariners decided to go to right-handed throwing Sadzeck to force Santana to bat left-handed. The advanced scouting said Santana had been mashing left-handed pitching all season. In 38 plate appearances this season, Santana had a .367/.500/.533 slash line vs. lefties and a .292/.393/.458 line against righties. While he’s obviously hitting from both side of the plate well, the Mariners wanted him to bat from the left side.
“He’s been going really good right-handed,” Servais said. “The Indians are tough because of all their switch hitters. And their switch hitters are good from both sides. You are just trying to play the odds a little bit.”
With Sadzeck’s high 90s fastball and power slider, he was supposed to carefully attack Santana, but not make a major mistake by leaving anything down the middle. With Lindor on second and first base open, if Sadzeck did walk Santana, they could bring in lefty Zac Rosscup to face Carlos Gonzalez, who was on deck.
Sadzeck threw four consecutive sliders to Santana, something Servais didn’t exactly prefer, and the fourth one just stayed right over the middle of the plate. Santana smashed it over the wall for his fifth homer of the season.
“Flipping Santana around I thought was the right move,” Servais said. “We are giving opportunities to guys and seeing if they can take and run with those opportunities. He just didn’t execute the pitch. Connor has been on a good run with us. He’s been throwing the ball well. But he made a mistake today and we paid for it.”
The Mariners did get the tying run on base in the top of the ninth against Cleveland closer Brad Hand. Edwin Encarnacion drew a leadoff walk to provide a small glimmer of hope, but Hand came back to strike out Jay Bruce, Domingo Santana and Omar Narvaez to close out the Indians’ win.
Seattle hit four solo homers in the game off of Cleveland starter Carlos Carrasco, but it wasn’t enough.
The Mariners got a quality start from Mike Leake, who pitched six innings while allowing three runs on seven hits with two walks and four strikeouts.
M’s acquire relief depth
The Mariners added more relief pitching depth on Saturday, completing a small trade for a pitcher with some upside that was available for a small cost.
Seattle acquired right-handed pitcher Austin Adams from the Washington Nationals in exchange for minor league left-handed pitcher Nick Wells and cash considerations.
Adams, who turns 28 on Monday, was designated for assignment by the Nationals on April 30. He was added to Seattle’s 40-man roster and optioned to Class AAA Tacoma.
Adams pitched in one game for the Nationals on April 20, allowing one run in one inning of work. He pitched in eight games for Class AAA Fresno, recording a save with a 2.70 ERA. In 10 innings pitched, he struck out 20 batters with three walks.
While he was general manager of the Angels, Jerry Dipoto selected Adams in the eighth round of the 2012 draft out of the University of South Florida. Adams was later traded to the Nationals for infielder Danny Espinosa in 2016.
Wells, 23, went 1-2 with a 7.91 ERA in five starts with High-A Modesto this season. Wells was acquired by Seattle along with left-handed pitchers Rob Rasmussen and Jake Brentz from the Toronto Blue Jays in exchange for right-handed pitcher Mark Lowe on July 31, 2015.