ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — For the Mariners, it was game in which, as manager Eric Wedge put it, “One guy gave us every opportunity to win the ballgame offensively.”
That guy was third baseman Kyle Seager, who had two homers Wednesday to drive in all Seattle’s runs in a 5-4 defeat to the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field.
But it was also a night of freaky and frustrating occurrences that led to the Mariners’ fifth straight defeat as a once-promising trip turns increasingly dark.
It was also a night in which the Mariners squandered a huge opportunity to tie the score in the eighth, and one when Wedge’s patience with two supremely struggling veterans appeared to near its breaking point.
Chone Figgins was 0 for 5 with two strikeouts. Brendan Ryan was 0 for 3 with three strikeouts. On this trip, they are a combined 4 for 49 (.081). Figgins’ average has dropped to .198, Ryan’s to .125.
Figgins is likely to start Thursday, Wedge said, because he is 7 for 14 in his career against Tampa Bay starter Jeff Niemann, but it wouldn’t be surprising if Ryan sat.
“It’s not carte blanche here,” Wedge said. “Figgins has numbers off this guy tomorrow so we’ll give him another chance to see if he can get himself going, but it doesn’t last forever. I am patient. It’s a long season and we’re 25 games in and have 130-some odd to play. But ultimately it’s about producing. If they’re not getting it done, then we’ll have to change their roles.”
Wedge was particularly upset with the Mariners’ 14 strikeouts — 11 of them in six innings against Rays starter James Shields.
“The strikeouts are just ridiculous to me right now,” he said. “These guys are better than that. Whether it be zoning up early or throughout the course of the count or sticking your nose in there with two strikes, this is not going to continue to happen, because we’re not going to let it happen. If we have to change the personnel, then so be it. If we have to change the roles, then so be it. But ultimately they’ve got to show me a reason to keep on playing.”
Throw in the ongoing travails of Justin Smoak — dropped from fourth to seventh in the order Wednesday and relegated to designated hitter — and the trio was a combined 0 for 11 with seven strikeouts in the game. They are now 8 for 77 (.104) on this trip.
In the eighth, trailing by a run, the Mariners put runners on first and third with one out on singles by Ichiro and Seager. But Alex Liddi fouled out and Smoak flied out to right on a well-struck ball.
Liddi, playing first, was also involved in a key play in the fourth, when a towering pop fly by Luke Scott dropped, untouched, between Liddi and second baseman Dustin Ackley. The ball hit a wire, but Ackley said that wasn’t a factor. Instead, the culprit was miscommunication between the two fielders as the ball briefly went out of sight at its apex.
“He said he had it,” Ackley explained. “I (looked) up, and it was gone. I was like, ‘Does he still have it? Can he still see it?’ I think when I asked him, ‘Do you got it?’, he thought I was saying, ‘I got it.’
“I think that’s where the miscommunication was. When it’s so loud out there, he might have just heard, “Got it.” We have to do a better job of communicating and making sure one of us has it. That was the tough part of it.”
The lost out played a key role in the inning as Tampa Bay went on to score two off Mariner starter Blake Beavan to take a 4-3 lead. And after the Mariners tied it on Seager’s second homer — following a three-run shot by Seager off Shields in the first — the Mariners had another fluky play on a ball hit by Scott.
Leading off the sixth, Scott hit a drive to center that sent Michael Saunders back to the wall. Saunders made a leaping attempt, but the ball glanced off his glove and over the fence. That run held on as the winner, and left Saunders befuddled as to what exactly happened.
“I know I got a piece of the ball. That’s it,” he said. “In all honesty, I got a bit of the ball. I don’t know if I was going to catch it before I hit the wall, I don’t know if the ball was already over the wall, I don’t know. It was just one of those plays, it all happened so fast. I hit the wall and came down without the ball.”
It was that kind of night for the Mariners.