NEW YORK – Scott Servais wasn’t offering a prediction based on a premonition. No, it was more of a warning for anyone – players, fans or people in the organization – that this final month of baseball, including this current road trip, would not be easy regardless of opponent records or seasonlong underachievement.
“You look at the Mets roster and how they’re playing here at home … this is hard,” he said before Sunday’s series finale. “Every game is gonna be a struggle. It doesn’t matter who you’re playing with our schedule. We don’t have any easy ones. Even the teams that are below .500, they are teams that play us very tough. There’s no easy ones there at all. That’s the way it is in September when you have a chance to get into the playoffs.”
About five hours later, the Mariners were packing up for the second leg of the three-city road trip after suffering a disappointing 6-3 defeat to the Mets in game they never once led.
Seattle dropped two of three games at Citi Field in a series they it was close to winning, while also flirting with being swept.
“It’s been a while since we’ve lost a series,,” Servais said postgame. “I had to ask after the game when the last one was. We’ve been playing such solid baseball with the strong pitching and the timely hitting.”
The Mariners had won their last five series since dropping two of three to the Baltimore Orioles on Aug. 11-13 at T-Mobile Park. It was just the second series the Mariners had lost since July 14-16.
“They outplayed us today,” Servais said. “It happens. You do lose a series once in a while, and they played very well. They handled our pitching and normally our pitching kind of gets it going and can take over during the course of a series.”
Down three runs going into the top of the ninth, the Mariners tried to put together rally to at least force extra innings. Mike Ford worked a one-out walk and Sam Haggerty reached on a two-out infield single off Mets reliever Adam Ottavino. It brought J.P. Crawford to the plate as the tying run.
But after hitting the go-ahead homer off Ottavino in Saturday’s 8-7 win, Crawford couldn’t be the hero again. He just missed a prime 3-1 pitch, fouling it off and then struck out to end the game.
“We find ways to always make it interesting,” Servais said of the late-inning comebacks. “We typically get the tying run to the plate. Sometimes we come through, sometimes they make pitches and that’s what happened today.”
For the second straight game, the Mariners got a suboptimal outing from one of their best starting pitchers.
After missing his last start due to illness and having not pitched since Aug. 23, George Kirby took the mound with large contingent of family and friends making the short trip from Westchester County to Flushing to see him start.
Unfortunately, he couldn’t deliver the outing they and Mariners fans have come to expect from him.
With his command less precise than normal and an inability to put hitters away with two strikes, Kirby pitched only three innings – his shortest outing of the season – allowing four runs (three earned) on six hits with no walks and three strikeouts.
“It just didn’t go my way today,” he said. “I wish I could have done a better job with my family and friends here today. I’m looking forward to the next one.”
The Mariners were concerned the previous illness, the long layoff between starts and the 90 degree temps and high humidity might lead to issues. They planned to limit his usage if possible.
Kirby looked a little off from the start though he wouldn’t offer any excuses.
“I definitely could have executed better,” he said. “But my body felt good. I was I was ready to go.”
His teammates didn’t help him to get into a rhythm in what was a 26-pitch first inning.
After needing eight pitches to retire Brandon Nimmo despite being up 0-2 on his first two pitches of the game, Kirby watched as Francisco Lindor fouled off five pitches in a row and then reached base when Josh Rojas mishandled a ground ball on backhand attempt for an error.
With two outs, Pete Alonso singled to center as Lindor was attempting to steal second. Lindor never hesitated going around second and heading for third base. Seeing how deep Julio Rodriguez had been playing, Mets third base coach Joey Cora (remember him?) waved Lindor home. Rodriguez’s throw bounced in front of Ford, who couldn’t field it and make a throw as the cut-off.
The Mets added another run in the second inning. Touted prospect Ronny Mauricio, who made his debut on Friday, singled up the middle, stole second and then scored no Francisco Alvarez’s single to left field. Down 0-2 in the count, Alvarez worked it back to 2-2 and hit a sinker that stayed up in the strike zone.
Kirby found more trouble in the third inning. He allowed a leadoff single to Jeff McNeil and then left a 1-2 curveball over the middle of the plate instead of burying it low and away to Alonso.
The Mets slugger, nicknamed The Polar Bear, pounced on the mistake, yanking a line drive over the wall in left field for his 40th homer of the season.
“Kudos to them,” Kirby said. “They did a good job today. They swing a lot. I have that problem sometimes living in the zone a lot, some guys are just swinging aggressively. I’ve got to do a better job of just getting under the zone and getting them to chase.”
It was the third time in five seasons that Alonso has hit 40-plus homers in a season.
Down 4-0, the Mariners responded with some homers of their own to push their way back into the game against Mets starter Tyler Megill.
With two outs Eugenio Suarez was hit by a pitch and Dominic Canzone, who homered as a pinch-hitter less than 24 hours earlier, sent a fly ball into the bullpen area for his fifth homer of the season. Moments late, Mike Ford sent a solo blast in roughly the same area of the bullpen. The back-to-back homers cut the lead to 4-3.
The Mariners got no closer.
With Kirby struggling, Servais went to the bullpen early. After a scoreless fourth inning, Dominic Leone gave up a solo homer to Jeff McNeil in second inning of work.
Alonso made it a two-homer day with a solo shot off Trent Thornton in the seventh inning.
The top of the Mets order – Nimmo, Lindor, McNeil and Alonso – combined for seven hits, five runs scored, three homers and five RBI.
The top of the Mariners order – Crawford, Rodriguez, Teoscar Hernandez, Cal Raleigh and Eugenio Suarez – combined for one hit with one run scored with three walks and seven strikeouts.