The game was basically over before the Mariners came to bat on Sunday afternoon. And one could make the argument that it was probably over before the first pitch was thrown by lefty Roenis Elias in the series finale with the Los Angeles Dodgers.
With the decision to give starter Marco Gonzales a few extra days of rest, the Mariners opted for a bullpen outing with Elias, who had been on the disabled list with a triceps issues, as the starter. It’s a less-than-ideal scenario, but the importance to get Gonzales right was understandable.
Across the way, the Dodgers were starting some guy named Clayton Kershaw. His resume includes three National League Cy Young awards, seven All-Star Game appearances and the distinction of being one of the best pitchers in baseball.
Bullpen vs. Kershaw? The odds weren’t tipping in the Mariners’ favor.
Sure, Kershaw has been dealing with injuries this season and has been hittable at times, but when Elias spotted the Dodgers a five-run lead in the top of the first inning, the question wasn’t whether Los Angeles would win, it was by how much.
The answer: 12-1
“Not the way we hoped the ballgame would go,” M’s manager Scott Servais said. “You just want to stay in the game competitively and hopefully you get a chance to do something late in the game. But we get behind the eight-ball right away in the first. We knew it was going to be a challenge.”
The Mariners were outscored in the series 27-6 and their lone win came on a balked-in run in extra innings Saturday. Seattle remains 3 1/2 games behind Oakland in the race for the American League’s second wild-card berth and will host division-leading Houston for a three-game series starting Monday night.
“Elias usually goes out there and really competes and lets it fly and takes his chances, but you didn’t really see that from him today in the first inning,” Servais said. “His mound presence and kind of what you are looking for to get the game off to a good start, he didn’t have it today. When you get behind early like that to a really good club like that, it can get ugly.”
Asked to pitch three to four innings and keep the Mariners in the game, Elias did one of those things, pitching three innings on a whopping 84 pitches. But the first inning was a disaster that allowed no room for recovery given who was on the mound for Los Angeles.
The Dodgers loaded the bases on a single from Brian Dozier, a walk to Justin Turner and another single to Manny Machado. Elias got Matt Kemp to ground into a force-out at home. Cody Bellinger sent a single into right field that scored the game’s first two runs. Enrique Hernandez followed with an RBI single that made it 3-0. With two outs, Yasiel Puig hit a broken-bat single into right field to score two more runs.
“I felt good; my arm felt good,” Elias said through interpreter Nasusel Cabrera. “I just had a bad outing. I threw a lot of pitches in that first inning. I struggled and the umpire missed some pitches.”
Elias faced 10 batters in that first inning, giving up five hits and walking two and left the Mariners down 5-0 before Kershaw had thrown a pitch.
“The first inning we were lucky to get through that one,” Servais said. “You aren’t expecting to see 10 hitters in the first. We were hoping to mix and match today and get it to the guys in the back end, but we just never got there. Our bullpen has taken its toll. The first night in the series, Wade (LeBlanc) didn’t get deep in the game, and we only got five from Erasmo (Ramirez) out of (Saturday) and only three out of our starter today.”
Elias’ reward for the uneven start could be an option back to Triple-A Tacoma so the Mariners can get fresh arm for the bullpen.
While Kershaw has dealt with some injuries, decreased velocity at times and less-than-typical command, he still came into the game with a 2.47 ERA in 18 starts.
The big lefty pitched seven innings, allowing one run on four hits with a walk and seven strikeouts. Over his last six starts, Kershaw has posted a 1.77 ERA. He used his nasty, biting curveball and painted his fastball on the corners to carve up Seattle hitters. Ryon Healy had two hits for Seattle.
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