ARLINGTON, Texas – An early August surge that carried the Mariners into postseason contention is now a fast-fading memory amid a late August fade that, if unchecked, could usher in another meaningless September.
Hisashi Iwakuma, a steadying presence for much the season, lasted just three innings Monday while getting outclassed by Japanese countryman Yu Darvish in a 6-3 loss to the Texas Rangers at Globe Life Park.
“Overall, everything was up in the zone from fastballs to breaking balls,” Iwakuma said. “It’s hard to say (why). I had a very good bullpen today. Everything was sharp. The breaking ball was tight.
“I just couldn’t bring that over to the (game) in general. It wasn’t like I had bad mechanics. It’s just everything was up in the zone.”
This makes six losses in seven games for the Mariners who, while they remain three games behind fading Baltimore for the American League’s final wild-card berth, now find three other teams between them and the Orioles.
Do the math: The Mariners have 29 games remaining to leap past four clubs – a task that continues Tuesday when the face Texas ace Cole Hamels in the middle game of the series.
That’s the problem, actually. They Mariners are catching some of league’s better pitchers over the last week: CC Sabathia, Masahiro Tanaka, Chis Sale, Jose Quintana and, on Monday, Darvish.
“It’s very good pitching,” manager Scott Servais said, “but what are you going to say? The American League is a really good league. … It’s just where we’re at. We’ve just got to continue to grind and hang in there.
“Get a big hit late. Tie the game up. Come from behind if you are down.”
None of that is happening.
“We’ve haven’t been getting what we want as an offensive team,” designated hitter Nelson Cruz admitted. “Like giving the lead to the bullpen. Stuff like that.”
Darvish (5-3) continues to show signs of regaining his form after missing all of last season after undergoing elbow surgery. He gave up one run through six innings before exiting with two on and two outs in the seventh.
“I thought early in the game,” Servais said, “he had the liveliest fastball that we’ve seen out of him this year. Much better than it was earlier when we saw him.
“He’s got a new catcher, and I think (Jonathan) Lucroy did a nice job with him.”
For all that, reliever Jake Diekman tried to let the Mariners back into the game after replacing Darvish by surrendering a two-run pinch double to Franklin Gutierrez before walking Robinson Cano.
That brought the tying run to the plate and prompted Texas to replace Diekman with Keone Kela, who struck out Nelson Cruz. Both runs were charged to Darvish, whose final line showed three runs in 6 2/3 innings.
“We had a chance to turn it around,” Cruz said, “but I wasn’t able to deliver. But we have two more games. We need to step up (Tuesday).”
Kela pitched a scoreless eighth before Sam Dyson closed out Texas’ victory for his 30th save in 34 chances.
The loss dropped the Mariners into third place in the A.L. West, 9 1/2 games behind first-place Texas and one game behind Houston.
Carlos Beltran opened the scoring with a 408-foot drive to right for a two-out homer in the first inning. It was his 25th homer of the season, and his third since coming to Texas in an Aug. 1 trade with the New York Yankees.
It was also Beltran’s fifth hit in 10 career at-bats against Iwakuma.
Texas extended its lead to 5-0 in a four-run third inning after Elvis Andrus led off with a walk and stole second. Nomar Mazara then pulled an RBI triple past first baseman Adam Lind and into the right-field corner.
Ian Desmond and Beltran followed with successive RBI doubles. Iwakuma retired the next two hitters before Lucroy flicked an RBI single into center. Mitch Moreland walked, but Carlos Gomez struck out.
Iwakuma threw 40 pitches in the inning.
The Mariners got one run back in the fourth on Adam Lind’s two-out RBI double, but Iwakuma did not return for the bottom of the inning.
Iwakuma (14-10) has lost three in a row and, after giving up five runs in three innings, saw his ERA nudge past four to 4.01.
Switch-pitcher Pat Venditte made his Mariners debut in replacing Iwakuma and provided a highlight by holding the Rangers to one unearned run over three innings while striking out five.
The hole was too big. The gap in the standings is getting that way, too.
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