SAN DIEGO – Perhaps a split of the two-game series with distinctly contrasting results – highlighting why more was expected and why less has been achieved for each – was a fitting result for two of the most disappointing and underachieving teams in Major League Baseball.
The Mariners’ seasonlong inconsistency was on full display over two days at Petco Park capped by Wednesday afternoon’s 10-3 pasting by the Padres, who actually delivered a performance tangible to their talent and massive payroll.
A day after getting a brilliant pitching performance from starter Logan Gilbert and a productive if not powerful offensive output, the Mariners got quite the opposite of that in a game that was more lopsided than the score indicates, dropping them to 30-31 on the season.
“Coming off of a nice ball game last night, I was hoping we could get a little momentum going,” M’s manager Scott Servais said. “It didn’t happen.”
The idea of gaining traction and turning one good game into a sustained stretch of quality is a desired but yet unachieved goal in the first months of a season that hasn’t gone as expected.
“We’re at the point in the season where you want to put a nice run together,” Servais said. “If you look at our team, I think we’re certainly capable of doing that. But it’s a combination of things. You need to have consistent starting pitching. You need guys in the bullpen step up and ultimately, you’ve got to score runs. It’s going to take more than four hits in any game to win it and that’s been the most frustrating thing.”
Getting shut out or at least limited in hits and runs isn’t new for the Mariners, who have offered up plenty of one-game teases of potential but nothing in the way of consistent offensive production. The Mariners were held scoreless for seven innings and managed just four hits in the game. San Diego’s Michael Wacha tossed six scoreless innings, allowing just two hits with a walk and seven strikeouts to improve to 6-2 on the season.
“He’s been leaning on his change-up more … that’s his pitch,” Servais said of Wacha. “And we didn’t do much with it at all today. I have to give him credit. He is on a good roll. There were pitches there to hit, but we didn’t get them in play or really do a whole lot with them when didn’t get something to hit.”
But a noncompetitive outing with George Kirby on the mound is somewhat surprising. The young right-hander has been one of the Mariners’ most competitive starting pitchers this season, producing a quality start or better in nine starts this season, including eight in a row.
Instead, Kirby suffered through his shortest outing of the season, never making it out of the fourth inning.
His final line: 3⅔ innings, allowing five runs on a season-high 11 hits with no walks and three strikeouts.
“He was certainly not as sharp as we’ve seen him,” Servais said. “But I really didn’t think George threw the ball that bad.”
It’s the second time in Kirby’s past three outings in which he was roughed up and failed to make it at least five innings.
On May 26 at T-Mobile Park, he was tagged for seven runs on nine hits in 4⅔ innings, including four homers. He bounced back in his next game to pitch his best outing of the season, tossing eight scoreless innings against the Yankees, allowing three hits with seven strikeouts.
Facing a Padres lineup that was missing Xander Bogaerts, Kirby didn’t have pinpoint command with his off-speed pitches to keep hitters off his fastball. Of his 86 pitches thrown, 41 were four-seam fastballs and 15 were two-seam fastballs. Of his 19 sliders, eight curveballs and three change-ups, he didn’t generate a single swing and miss and only three called strikes.
His outing fell apart in the third inning. Already down 1-0 after giving up a run in the second, Kirby retired Trent Grisham and Fernando Tatis Jr. on eight combined pitches. Kirby got up 0-2 on two pitches, but the ultra-patient Soto worked a full count and bounced a soft ground ball past Eugenio Suarez.
“I finally threw a good splitter and he just ate it,” Kirby said. “He’s hard to strike out. He’s got a good approach. He doesn’t chase a whole whole lot. So he’s a tough at-bat, but I could have done a little better job, 0-2. Manny Machado followed with a ground ball up the middle for a single that kept the inning going.
Kirby had a chance to put an end to the rally and keep the Mariners in the game by retiring cleanup hitter Gary Sanchez.
Once a touted power-hitting catching prospect for the Yankees, Sanchez never quite reached stardom because he was indifferent to the defensive responsibilities of the position or improving them. He also never produced enough at the plate for teams to overlook those shortcomings.
With the Padres in desperate need of catching help, they claimed Sanchez off waivers after he was designated for assignment by the Mets on May 30. The Padres are Sanchez’s third organization this season, and he’s been one of their best hitters since being claimed.
Sanchez stayed on a 98 mph pitch at the top of the strike zone, launching a towering fly ball into the seats in left-center for a three-run homer and a 4-0 lead.
“It probably needed a little bit higher,” Kirby said. “I threw a first-pitch slider to get him off the heater. But he put a good swing on it.”
It was Sanchez’s fourth homer in nine games with the Padres.
Kirby started the fourth and got two quick outs, but then surrendered a single to Tatis, who stole second, advanced to third on a throwing error on the play and scored Soto’s ground ball single through the left side. When Machado singled up the middle – the Padres’ 11th hit off Kirby – Servais went to his bullpen.
The Padres continued to rack up hits against Mariners relievers, scoring three runs in the fifth inning and two more in the seventh.
Seattle scratched out three runs in eighth when reliever Drew Carlton handed them a few runs, walking the first three hitters he faced and then hitting Jose Caballero with a pitch to allow a run to score. Julio Rodriguez drove in a run with an infield single and another run scored when Ty France hit into a double play.