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Seattle Mariners

Mariners fall into last place in the AL West after dropping home series to A’s

Seattle Mariners closing pitcher Paul Sewald walks off the mound after the top of the ninth inning of a baseball game against the Oakland Athletics, Wednesday, May 25, 2022, in Seattle. The Athletics won 4-2.  (Associated Press)
By Ryan Divish Seattle Times

The tanking team vs. the sinking team.

It’s difficult to know what position feels more hopeless at the moment.

With their 4-2 win on a sunny Wednesday afternoon, the Oakland A’s, who decided to go into a massive rebuild this offseason, trading away their two best position players and two top pitchers with more trades coming at the deadline to reduce payroll, put the Mariners, a team supposedly with designs on the postseason, into last place in the American League West by taking two of three games.

While all losses count the same in the Mariners’ record, now an ugly 18-27, the optics surrounding the three games at T-Mobile Park look worse.

The A’s are a shell of their former selves, while the Mariners are just a rudderless mess, drifting toward another summer of discontent.

Robbie Ray gave the Mariners a workable outing, pitching six innings and allowing three runs on seven hits, a walk and 10 strikeouts.

The three runs scored came via the home run. Ray allowed a solo homer to Seth Brown in the fourth inning. But it was Elvis Andrus’ two-run towering fly ball to left field that carried just over the wall and into Edgar’s Cantina in the sixth inning that left Ray shaking his head in frustration.

The ball sort of carried in the afternoon sunshine, just out of Jesse Winker’s reach on a leaping attempt. Per MLB Statcast data, the fly ball traveled 348 feet with a 98-mph exit velocity and a 41-degree launch angle – and had a .080 expecting batting average.

The Mariners offense was stymied in the early innings by A’s starter Paul Blackburn, who pitched 51/3 scoreless innings to improve to 5-0 on the season.

For some die-hard Mariners fans, there is an initial bit of recognition or familiarity around the right-hander’s unique last name beyond the fact that he had pitched against the Mariners before, generating a “that sure sounds familiar, why should I know that name?”

Well, Blackburn was once part of the Mariners organization … for 115 days.

A first-round pick (No. 56 overall) in the 2012 draft by the Cubs, Blackburn was traded to the Mariners along with first baseman/designated hitter/lineman Daniel Vogelbach on July 12, 2016 in exchange for left-handed pitcher Mike Montgomery and minor league pitcher Jordan Pries.

It wasn’t a particularly popular trade at the time. Fans felt general manager Jerry Dipoto was giving up on Montgomery, who had pitched in a variety of roles with some success. Montgomery would later play an intricate role in the Cubs’ World Series, which included recording the final out of the World Series later that season.

Blackburn made seven starts and one relief appearance at the Mariners’ Class AA affiliate, posting a 3-1 record with a. 3.54 ERA.

Wanting to have a platoon partner for Vogelbach and a better defensive presence at first base for the 2017 season, the Mariners traded Blackburn to the A’s on Nov. 12, 2016 in exchange for first baseman Danny Valencia.

A talented but petulant player with a pattern of grating on coaches and teammates, the Mariners were Valencia’s seventh team in seven seasons. With Vogelbach struggling to the point of being sent down in spring training and Valencia forced to play everyday, the Mariners realized a few weeks into the season that his unfavorable reputation was well-earned. They tried to trade Valencia at the deadline, but not surprisingly found no takers.