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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

More of the same as Mariners fall to Blue Jays for 6th loss in 7 games

By Ryan Divish Seattle Times

TORONTO — The kind of baseball a team is playing is usually dictated by the results. There is “winning baseball” for teams on a roll. Some teams will say they are still playing “good baseball” when they are losing close, competitive games.

The current level of baseball being played by the Mariners certainly isn’t winning and, well, it isn’t even close to good.

But calling it “bad baseball” seems like understatement. Uninspired? Forgettable? Inadequate?

Tuesday’s 5-3 loss to the Blue Jays — their third straight and sixth in their last seven games — was simply more of the same frustrating baseball that the Mariners have played since the start of the season.

It featured another short and pitch-filled outing from the starting pitcher, poor defense leading to free outs and bases, and an offense incapable of stringing together base runners and hits while striking out at a rate higher than any team in baseball.

“It’s frustrating right now,” manager Scott Servais said. “We are not playing great baseball right now. It’s very early in the season. But the team understands where we are at, and we have to make some adjustments.”

The overall solution is simple.

“Teams are playing better than us,” Servais said. “We’ve got to play better.”

The Mariners have probably played worse than their 4-8 record indicates. It’s been bad enough that they are probably another loss or two away from calling a team meeting to discuss what’s going wrong.

“It hasn’t been a good road trip,” Servais said. “It hasn’t been a good start to the season. I do believe we have a good club, and we are not playing to our capabilities right now. But it will turn. It is a long season. I do believe in this group. We’ve got to play better baseball.”

While every team will go through stretches of play like the Mariners are currently experiencing in a season, this is the only baseball they’ve played this season. The substandard level of play is irritating and glaring if not concerning or defining.

“It’s easy to talk about what you are capable of doing,” Servais said. “It’s about what you are willing to do. We have to get back into playing our game. It’s all facets of the game are not clicking at all.”

Of all their problems, the inconsistent performances from their starting rotation are perhaps the most unexpected issues. A year ago, when the offense was, well, not quite as bad as this offense, the starting pitching was able to keep the Mariners competitive and give them chances to win. They have just three quality starts this season — all wins.

For the second straight outing, George Kirby couldn’t give the Mariners even five innings. Kirby pitched four innings, allowing five runs on eight hits with no walks and three strikeouts. Over his past two outings, he’s pitched a total of 7 2/3 innings, allowing 11 earned runs on 17 hits with no walks and five strikeouts.

Similar to the issues with Luis Castillo on Friday, Kirby struggled to put hitters away. The Blue Jays fouled off 26 pitches and swung and missed at just four of them. Of the 30 pitches he threw with two strikes, he got just one swing and miss while the Blue Jays fouled off 12 pitches.

“That’s crazy,” Servais said of only one whiff with two strikes. “When that happens, [hitters] get very comfortable. They are seeing it and going after the. pitch on the outer half. And you have to make them uncomfortable.”

Toronto had four two-strike hits.

“I didn’t execute that well with two strikes tonight,” Kirby said. “That’s what happens — they foul off a lot of pitches. I’ve just to be better and locate better.”

The Blue Jays’ three runs in the second inning came off two-strike hits. With one out and Daulton Varsho on second base, George Springer took a first-pitch ball and then fouled off eight consecutive pitches before smacking a slider left up in the zone into left-center to score Varsho.

“It’s definitely frustrating,” Kirby said. “But in my head, I know I’m going to beat them. I’m keep telling that to myself to lock in and make a pitch. But they are good hitters, and they are going to beat you once in a while. But tonight, I just thought I was little too much in the zone and didn’t expand enough.”

After getting Vlad Guerrero Jr. to hit into a fielder’s choice for the second out, Kirby thought he had Bo Bichette struck out on an elevated 96-mph fastball above the zone. But Bichette spoiled that by just getting a piece of it. Kirby came back with a slider that was supposed to be low and away and off the plate. Instead, the pitch backed up and onto the inner half and Bichette golfed the low pitch over the wall for two-run homer.

Toronto tacked on two more runs in the fourth inning. Cavan Biggio led off with a single and stole second, aided by Jorge Polanco being unable to field the ball off the bounce cleanly and apply the tag. Isiah Kiner-Falefa doubled into right field to score the run. He would score moments later when Springer ambushed a first-pitch sinker for a hard single to right field.

Meanwhile, Blue Jays starter Chris Bassitt had no such difficulties. Using all eight — yes, eight — of his pitches, he held the Mariners scoreless over the first six innings, allowing three hits with four walks and eight strikeouts.

Seattle finally got a run off him in the seventh inning as he went over 100 pitches. Dominic Canzone hit his team-leading third homer, sending an opposite field solo blast over the wall in left field. When Josh Rojas followed with a single to left, Bassitt’s night was over, earning a standing ovation from the crowd of more than 36,000 at the Rogers Centre.

The Mariners made the loss a little more respectable in the eighth inning against reliever Trevor Richards. With two outs and Julio Rodriguez on first, having worked a leadoff walk, Mitch Haniger took advantage of a hanging breaking ball, smashing it over the wall in left field for his second homer of the season.

“We got a few homers late in the game to get back into it,” Servais said. “But we’ve got to do more early in the game.”