SAN DIEGO – The Seattle Mariners’ anemic offense doesn’t play favorites. Sure, much has been made about the failures to hit in Felix Hernandez’s starts.
Seattle showed that anemic hitting performances are equal opportunity and not limited to when all-star pitchers are on the mound.
On a gorgeous Thursday afternoon, the Mariners’ offense demonstrated it can struggle for the rest of the rotation. The latest victim was No. 5 starter Erasmo Ramirez.
The diminutive right-hander had his best outing in recent memory, tossing six shutout innings and allowing just two hits.
But the Mariners gave him all of one run in support and that wasn’t enough. The Seattle bullpen couldn’t hold the slim lead, giving up four runs in the seventh inning after Ramirez departed, and there was no coming back in a 4-1 loss to the San Diego Padres at Petco Park.
The Mariners have dropped two straight games and head to Kansas City in search of runs against a Royals’ team that is playing outstanding baseball.
“We got our (rears) kicked, that’s what I saw,” Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon said. “It’s just that simple. Sometimes we try to overanalyze things. I don’t have that answer. It’s baseball.”
Ramirez was sharp against a Padres’ offense that is statistically worse than the Mariners, which might be difficult for frustrated Mariners fans to believe. The Padres are last in MLB in runs per game (2.94), batting average (.214) and on-base plus slugging percentage (.612).
Ramirez used that to his advantage, attacking hitters and getting ahead in counts.
“Everything was working,” he said.
He wasn’t perfect. But he made enough pitches to work out of minor jams in the first and second inning. Ramirez walked the first two batters he faced to start the second, but worked out of the inning and retired nine batters in a row and 15 of his next 16.
“I thought he threw the ball better,” McClendon said. “I thought his command was better. He threw some good changeups. His breaking ball was OK. His fastball had better velocity to it.”
After being held scoreless for the first four innings by Padres’ starter Jesse Hahn, the Mariners scored their only run in the fifth inning. Brad Miller drew a leadoff walk and later came around to score on Robinson Cano’s RBI single up the middle. It was one of three hits for Cano on the day. The rest of the team combined for five.
“We had some chances, but we just didn’t have very good at-bats during scoring opportunities,” McClendon said. “It’s been our challenge all year.”
With Ramirez’s spot in the batting order coming up in the seventh, manager Lloyd McClendon pinch hit for him, ending his day having thrown just 70 pitches.
There was no regret in the decision, even after the bullpen imploded an inning later.
“We’ve all been through this, we’ve all lived it,” McClendon said. “He’s struggled to this point. We’re finally starting to turn the corner with him. And if we can get him out of there on a positive note and continue to build and continue to build. That’s what we are going to do. Our bullpen just didn’t hold up.”
McClendon turned to rookie right-hander Dominic Leone, who has been Seattle’s best reliever this season. He came into the game with a 1.19 ERA in 25 appearances and 30 1/3 innings pitched.
But Leone wasn’t sharp. After getting a quick out, he left a pair of cut fastballs up in the zone, which Tommy Medica and Cameron Maybin hit for back-to-back triples to tie the game. Leone then walked pinch-hitter Carlos Quentin and gave up a single to Chris Denorfia that gave the Padres a 2-1 lead.
“I left some pitches up today,” Leone said. “It was bad execution on my part and they did what they are supposed to do.”