TORONTO – Josh Bard bore a look of disbelief as he tried to explain how a season could go so wrong in two weeks.
It was only 14 days earlier that his Seattle Mariners had entered a series finale in Oakland just 21/2 games out of first place and looking for a sweep. They have since lost 11 in a row, the latest coming Wednesday night in an 11-6 shellacking at the hands of the Toronto Blue Jays.
Bard’s team is now a half-game out of last place in the American League West and has dropped 11 games in the standings in an equal numbers of days they’ve played.
All of that aside, it’s the composition of the team performing so miserably that has left veteran catcher Bard most stunned by this freefall.
“It’s that a team with our pitching could go this long without winning a game,” Bard said. “Teams that have the bullpen and the starting pitching we have, those are the teams that go on really long winning streaks.
“That, to me, is the most frustrating thing. It’s hard.”
Bard knows what he’s talking about, having played for contenders in Boston and San Diego. But the squad that got flat-out rocked here in front of 18,093 fans at the Rogers Centre didn’t look like it could have contended for much of anything.
“Somehow, some way … somebody’s got to step up and do something special,” Bard said. “Do something that shakes this thing up a bit because right now, it seems like we’re just not doing what we need to in order to win.”
The Mariners hit a bit better, but still had trouble with some basics. They had the bases loaded with none out in the first inning against former Mariners pitcher Brandon Morrow, only to see Justin Smoak strike out, Adam Kennedy pop out and Mike Carp line out to shortstop.
Morrow went on to throw seven innings of three-run ball with seven strikeouts in his first game against the Mariners since he was traded for Brandon League and a minor leaguer in December 2009.
Mariners starter Jason Vargas gave up four runs in the second inning and another in the third and was spared a bunch more by outfield catches from Carp and Franklin Gutierrez, and a fan who interfered with a bases-loaded double. Vargas was pulled after three innings, his pitch count already at 80.
“I’ve got to do a better job, especially after a game like (Tuesday) night, where we’re thin in the bullpen,” said Vargas, who walked three in a second inning during which he appeared to get squeezed by umpire Lance Barrett.
“I can’t come out there and throw 80 pitches through three innings regardless of the situation,” Vargas said. “I feel like I put us in a bad situation from the beginning.”
Bard doubled home a pair of runs off Morrow to leave Seattle down 5-2. But it was for naught, as second baseman Dustin Ackley made a poor throw and failed to complete what would have been an inning-ending double play.
One pitch later, Travis Snider pounded a Jamey Wright offering over the wall in right-center for an 8-2 Blue Jays lead.
“We’re starting to swing the bats a little better the last couple of nights, but we’re getting sloppy in other areas and that just can’t happen,” Mariners manager Eric Wedge said.