OAKLAND, Calif. — This road trip still has eight games remaining, which means the Mariners still have miles to go before they again experience the warmth of Safeco Field’s embracing chill.
The road remains a dirty four-letter word.
A 3-1 loss Friday to Oakland, when their attack pretty much flatlined against Sean Manaea and the Athletics’ bullpen, dropped the Mariners to 1-8 away from home.
Worse…that 1-8 is all against American League West Division opponents. The Mariners are back in the division cellar, after escaping during their recent 6-3 homestand, and already trail first-place Houston by 5 1/2 games.
All after just 19 games.
“Offensively, we’re just not clicking,” manager Scott Servais said. “You’ve got to hit to win on the road. We haven’t, and that’s why we haven’t won. We’ve got to pick it up there.”
Yonder Alonso broke a 1-1 tie by crushing Hisashi Iwakuma’s first pitch in the sixth inning, an 84-mph fastball, for 417-foot homer to center.
Jed Lowrie followed with a double into the left-center gap and moved to third on Khris Davis’ grounder to second.
James Pazos replaced Iwakuma and jumped ahead 0-2 on Stephen Vogt before Vogt delivered a sacrifice fly to right for a 3-1 lead.
Ryan Dull inherited that lead to start the seventh inning from Manaea, who held the Mariners to one run and six hits. Dull, Sean Doolittle and Santiago Casilla closed out Oakland’s victory.
“It’s just another game,” designated hitter Nelson Cruz said. “We had a chance to score a few runs and weren’t able to do it. Just take the positives from the day and move on.”
There weren’t many. Cruz had a single and two walks in four plate appearances, but the Mariners – in what is becoming a familiar bugaboo – were 0 for 7 with runners in scoring position.
Iwakuma (0-2) was better, in many ways, than his last start, when he displayed an alarming drop in velocity while lasting just three innings against Texas. His velocity ticked back up.
But his command was something less than his resume standard. He fell behind hitters on a regular basis and threw just 43 of 82 pitches for strikes.
“I couldn’t get strike one for the most part,” he said. “I think I was just being too careful with the location, which kind of cost me to not being able to command my pitches. I think I walked four, and that’s not me.”
Even so, Iwakuma pitched around traffic in three of the first four innings before surrendering a game-tying homer to Trevor Plouffe with one out in the fifth inning. Plouffe drove a slider up in the zone 409 feet to dead center.
The Mariners’ only run came after Guillermo Heredia punched a two-out single up the middle in the third inning. Mitch Haniger followed with a hard grounder past third that turned into an RBI triple.
Otherwise, Manaea (1-1) was in command. He yielded just four other his in his six innings while striking out six and walking three.
“The changeup was the pitch that was working for him,” Cruz said. “He’s got that side angle, and it can be tough to read.”
PLAY OF THE GAME: Catcher Carlos Ruiz picked off Jaff Decker at first base for the final out in the fifth inning. It was close, and Oakland challenged. But the call by Mark Ripperger stood.
PLUS: Heredia had two the Mariners’ six hits and seems likely to see increased playing time…Haniger’s RBI triple in the third inning extended his streak of reaching base safely at least once to 22 games dating back to last season…Jarrod Dyson went 1 for 3 and has reached base safely at least once in 15 of his last 16 games.
MINUS: Iwakuma had won five straight decisions at the Oakland Coliseum prior to Friday’s loss…Heredia was picked off and caught stealing after leading off the game with a single…Robinson Cano is 2 for 19 against Oakland reliever Sean Doolittle after striking out in the eighth inning.
STAT PACK: Plouffe’s homer in the fifth inning was No. 100 in his career. His first 96 came over the previous seven years at Minnesota.
QUOTABLE: Servais pointed to a lack of production from the lineup’s middle core – Cano, Cruz and Kyle Seager – as a continuing problem.
“Robby and Nellie and Seags,” he said. “The guys around them are going to have their nights to chip in, but those are our big three, and they know it. They’re pressing a little bit.
“We’ve got a long trip ahead of us, and we’ve got to have better at-bats. We’ve got to get some results. The only way to do that is to keep grinding through it.”
SHORT HOPS: Shortstop Jean Segura went 0 for 3 with a walk as the designated hitter in the first game of his rehab assignment at Double-A Arkansas. Segura is recovering from a strained right hamstring. He is expected to play in the field on Saturday…rehabbing reliever Steve Cishek threw 20 pitches in a start for Triple-A Tacoma at El Paso. Cishek gave up one hit and two walks in two-thirds of an inning but allowed no runs.
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