Hopes slipping away

M’s close clubhouse after another defeat

SAN DIEGO – The Seattle Mariners played their 62nd game on Saturday, a milestone of sorts because it leaves them with an even 100 left to play.

This one, a 7-1 Padres victory at Petco Park, was a carbon copy of so many dreary Seattle losses that preceded it. That is to say, quality starting pitching wasted by feeble offense and incendiary relief work, leading to a parade of defeats that is threatening to render those last hundred insignificant.

Or maybe we can finally say, as the Mariners dropped 11 games out of first place, that the threat is now a reality.

Manager Don Wakamatsu was unusually pointed after the game, and the players closed the clubhouse and met for 30 minutes before reporters were allowed in.

The meeting was reportedly called by two of the team elders, Cliff Lee and Milton Bradley, with another veteran, Chone Figgins, serving as one of the primary speakers. All are first-year Mariners, and Lee’s time remaining in Seattle is dwindling as the likelihood is growing to a near certainty he will be traded.

Two of the main themes appeared to be accountability, and improved execution – this after a game in which the M’s squandered two huge scoring opportunities with the bases loaded.

“We need to turn it around,” said Lee, saddled with the loss despite seven solid innings marred primarily by a two-run Adrian Gonzalez homer in the first inning. “It’s about time to snap out of it.

“We need to do a better job executing, and that includes me balking (in the fourth inning). I can’t do that. It led to a run. Stuff like that can’t happen.”

One can start to wonder how long Lee will be around.

As the Mariners sink to irrelevance in the division race, an eventual trade of Lee, eligible for free agency after the season, is becoming an increasing likelihood. The Mariners continue to harbor ever-dwindling hopes of re-entering the A.L. West race, but they’re not exactly making a strong case for it on this road trip of doom.

The Mariners have lost five straight, and dropped a season-high 16 games under .500.

Lee (4-3) turned in yet another quality start, working seven innings – he’s lasted into the seventh in all nine of his appearances this year – and giving up three runs.

But the Padres put the game away on Oscar Salazar’s pinch-hit, three-run homer off Sean White in the eighth.

The Mariners had bookend rallies in the first and eighth, and typically squandered both of them. In the first, they had the bases loaded with no outs and managed not to score, and in the eighth they loaded the bases with one out and again failed to touch home plate.

The key at-bat in the former was a home-to-first double play off the bat of Jose Lopez. In the eighth, with the bases loaded and one out, Michael Saunders struck out and Casey Kotchman grounded out to end it.

Gonzalez’s blast in the first was just the second long ball he has given up in his nine Mariners starts.

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