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Seattle Mariners

Mariners drop another series in blowout loss to Brewers

By Ryan Divish Seattle Times

MILWAUKEE – The decision to remove Emerson Hancock from his second start of the season again came down effectiveness, pitches thrown and innings worked.

Sunday was a vastly different and a less pleasant and less debated scenario for manager Scott Servais.

As the series finale at American Family Stadium devolved into what would be a lopsided 12-4 loss to the Brewers, Servais had to figure out how much and how far he could push his young starter to give some coverage to a bullpen that didn’t have every reliever available to cover any remaining innings while also plausibly trying to win the game.

Hancock had allowed six runs in the first two innings, but if a few plays had been made defensively, that number could have been cut in half. He’d also struck out four hitters in the first two innings. When Hancock was able to work a scoreless third inning with two more strikeouts, Servais sent him back out for the fourth hoping to steal at least one more scoreless frame.

It didn’t happen.

Instead, Oliver Dunn led off with a triple to the corner in right field. William Contreras, who’d already smacked a two-run homer into the upper deck in left field in the second inning, smashed a deep fly ball to right-center. The ball bounced off the top of the wall and back into the field of play. Luke Raley caught the ball and fired to second to get Contreras, who’d spent a fair amount of time admiring what would go down as an RBI single in the scorebook.

Hancock’s outing and any hope of a comeback ended two pitches later when Willy Adames launched a solo homer to left to make it 8-2.

His final line: 31/3 innings pitched, eight runs allowed on 11 hits, including two homers with a walk and six strikeouts.

“It starts with starting pitching and they took our starter out of it early,” Servais said.

The Brewers put eight balls in play off Hancock with exit velocities of 95 mph or higher.

“You’ve got to credit to the Brewers,” Servais said. “They had a really good game plan and approach against Emerson Hancock today. They did not chase. They made him get the ball up and they put some good swings on him when he did.”

Baseball players call the attack plan “seeing him up.” It’s something the Rangers did with Felix Hernandez late in his career. Hancock’s two best pitches – the sinking two-seam fastball and changeup – both have strong movement below the zone just before the plate. So anything that looks even close to being low isn’t a pitch to swing at unless there are two strikes.

“They had a good approach,” Hancock said. “I just feel like I didn’t execute that well. What they were trying to do with their approach … I just didn’t make the adjustments and I just didn’t give us a chance to win.”

It’s a plan that other teams will emulate against Hancock.

“You’ve got to find a way to still get outs,” he said. “I’ve got to be able to make adjustments. I feel like I’ll get better at kind of recognizing it. And keep going and getting outs.”

After Jorge Polanco provided Hancock with a 1-0 lead in the top of the first with an RBI single off Milwaukee starter Colin Rea, the Brewers answered with three runs in the bottom of the inning.

Should it have been three runs? It depends on your definition of what is or isn’t a makable play. Dunn led off with a chopping infield single that Josh Rojas couldn’t handle in his haste to fire it to first.

With one out in the inning, Jake Bauers hit a soft liner to right field. Luke Raley, who got the start in place of a resting Mitch Haniger, made a late diving attempt for the sinking ball. The ball went into his glove but didn’t remain as he hit the outfield grass.

After a strikeout, Sal Frelick doubled to left field on a pitch well out of the zone. The Mariners, specifically catcher Seby Zavala, thought Hancock had struck out Frelick with a 1-2 changeup that caught the end of the strike zone but was called a ball by Mike Muchlinski.

“It’s tough,” he said. “They fought of some good pitches. I felt like we were kind of one pitch away there from just getting out of there with only one run allowed. That’s part of this game and how hard it is. But it’s on to the next one, wake up tomorrow, get better, work at it and let’s go.”

Seattle (4-6) did answer with a run in the top of the second to cut the deficit to 3-2. Dylan Moore led off with a double and scored on Rojas’ single to right.

But Hancock allowed another three runs in the bottom of the inning. Brice Turang and Blake Perkins started with back-to-back singles.

Dunn hit a hard ground ball to the right side that could’ve been a double play ball but Polanco bobbled it and could only take the out at first as Turang scored. Contreras stepped to the plate and smashed a two-run homer to make it 6-2.

Will Hancock make his next scheduled start on Saturday at T-Mobile Park?

Right-hander Bryan Woo has resumed throwing in his return from elbow inflammation. But there isn’t a set date for his return and he would likely need at least one rehab outing. After their three-game series in Toronto, the Mariners have three off days mixed into a nine-game span. They could skip the fifth spot if needed, but they’ve preferred to give their starters the extra day of rest.

Seattle could option Hancock to Tacoma and add an extra reliever. That might be useful since reliever Collin Snider, who replaced Hancock in the fourth inning, took a 102-mph line drive off his left kneecap and had to leave the game.

They will likely have to bring a pitcher to Toronto on standby if Snider isn’t available to pitch. Seattle could avoid putting Snider on the 15-day injured list, but optioning Hancock and bringing in a reliever to address the immediate need.

“He got smoked,” Servais said. “We are making some calls with not quite knowing the status of Snider.”

Veteran lefty Dallas Keuchel, who recently signed as a minor league free agent, pitched five scoreless innings on Sunday for Tacoma. He could be an option for that future start.

Tayler Saucedo came in for Snider and gave the Mariners a career-high 2 2/3 innings. Trent Thornton pitched a scoreless seventh inning and infielder Rojas, pitching for the second time this season, took the mound in the eighth inning. He served up a two-run homer to Contreras.

“Ton of credit to Tayler Saucedo today, unbelievable job,” Servais said. “We’re up against it. We did not have a day off. We’re going to Toronto. So for him to give 2 2/3, I really appreciate the effort. It puts us in a position that gives a better chance to win the next series.”