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Mariners in big early hole as skid reaches five games

Seattle Mariners third baseman Kyle Seager (15) runs to home plate to score on a single by Robinson Cano during the first inning against the Washington Nationals in Washington on May 24, 2017. The Nationals won 10-1. (Manuel Balce Ceneta / Associated Press)
Seattle Mariners third baseman Kyle Seager (15) runs to home plate to score on a single by Robinson Cano during the first inning against the Washington Nationals in Washington on May 24, 2017. The Nationals won 10-1. (Manuel Balce Ceneta / Associated Press)
By Bob Dutton Tacoma News Tribune

WASHINGTON, D.C. – It’s not just that the Mariners are losing. They are, and that’s the key point, of course. It happened again Wednesday night when Washington rolled to a 5-1 victory at Nationals Park.

More than losing, though, the Mariners haven’t even been competitive in recent games. Their patchwork rotation lets the game get out of hand early and effectively saps all life from the closing innings.

“It does if you let it,” third baseman Kyle Seager said, “and, unfortunately, we’ve let it.”

It happened again on Wednesday when Anthony Rendon’s three-run homer capped Washington’s four-run first inning against rookie right-hander Sam Gaviglio.

It wasn’t entirely Gaviglio’s fault. An error earlier in the inning by shortstop Jean Segura meant all four runs were unearned. The effect was the same, though.

Another big early hole.

Washington scored two early runs on Tuesday before erupting for eight runs in the fourth inning on the way to a 10-1 victory. Rendon had two homers in that game.

The Chicago White Sox posted blowout victories last weekend at Safeco Field by scoring four runs in the first inning on Saturday, and five runs in the first inning on Sunday.

“We’ve got to pick up our intensity,” manager Scott Servais said. “We’re better than this. We’ve about had enough of it, and we need to dial it up.

“We know we’re banged up. Nobody cares about us. Nobody feels sorry for you in this league. You’ve got to go out and fight, claw and scratch and figure out a way. It’s just not happening right now.”

The Mariners have now lost five in a row and 10 of their last 13 in falling to a season-worst seven games under .500 at 20-27. Only Kansas City’s ongoing troubles are keeping the Mariners from the league’s worst record.

The Mariners actually grabbed their first lead since last Friday when Robinson Cano pushed a one-out RBI single past third base in the first inning against Nationals starter Tanner Roark.

Washington quickly pulled even later in the inning after Segura threw high to first for an error on Trea Turner’s leadoff grounder. Turner stole second and came around on two fly outs.

That run was unearned. So were the three that scored later in the inning on Rendon’s 391-foot homer, which gave Washington a 4-1 lead.

“I left it up,” Gaviglio said. “I made a mistake, and he took care of it.”

The Nationals added another run in the second inning on Turner’s RBI single before Gaviglio (0-1) settled into a nice groove. He pitched through the sixth inning and permitted just the one earned run.

It didn’t matter because the Mariners mustered little against Roark, who breezed through seven innings in improving 4-2. That points to the Mariners’ other deepening problem: a punchless attack.

Five runs in their last five games.

“We know what we need to do,” Seager said. “Everybody knows what we need to do. You get down early – it’s a long game. We have a good offense. We can score runs.

“Instead of sulking, we need to go out there and just play better and grind out at-bats.”

PLAY OF THE GAME: After making a costly error in the first inning, Segura went deep in the hole to field Michael Taylor’s leadoff grounder in the fourth inning. Segura made a strong throw across his body for the out.

PLUS: Cano raised his average to .303 by getting three hits in his second game since returning from an 11-game absence. He went 0 for 3 in Tuesday’s loss…Guillermo Heredia had two hits…Edwin Diaz pitched around a leadoff walk in a scoreless seventh inning…Nick Vincent pitched a scoreless eighth inning.

MINUS: Segura was 0 for 4 in addition to his costly error…Mike Zunino went hitless in four at-bats with two strikeouts…the Mariners have been outscored 39-4 in their last four games.

STAT PACK: The Nationals are 13-1 against the Mariners since the franchise moved to Washington from Montreal in 2005. The Mariners are also still winless in nation’s capital at 0-8.

QUOTABLE: “You’ve got to compete your tail off every pitch,” Servais said. “Every at-bat. You keep doing that and playing the game the right way over and over again, things turn. That’s the only way they turn.”

SHORT HOPS: First baseman Danny Valencia returned to the lineup after missing the three previous games because of a sore wrist. He had a single in four at-bats…Washington catcher Matt Wieters extended his hitting streak to a career-best 11 games with a two-out single in the eighth inning…the Mariners were 1 for 7 with runners in scoring position.

ON DECK: The Mariners and Nationals conclude their three-game series at 9:05 a.m. Pacific time Thursday at Nationals Park. The start time was moved up four hours because of rain forecasted in the D.C. area. Left-hander Ariel Miranda (3-2 with a 4.28 ERA) will oppose Washington left-hander Gio Gonzalez (3-1, 2.86).

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