SEATTLE--The decision to have a "bullpen" start in Thursday's finale of the four-game series against the Minnesota Twins didn't result in a win for the reeling Seattle Mariners.
But it was hardly the reason for the 4-2 loss.
For yet another night, the Mariners offense struggled to score runs, and a pair of defensive miscues and mistakes on the base paths also contributed.
Still, the lack of offense always gets the first mention, and with good reason. Over their past seven games, the Mariners have scored nine runs (and five in the past five), showing an inability to get hits with runners in scoring position. That trend continued. Seattle hitters went 1 for 3 with runners in scoring position and that hit didn't drive in a run. Seattle is on a 4-for-47 skid with runners in scoring position.
Of the Twins' four runs, three were earned. The Mariners grabbed a 1-0 lead on Kyle Seager's solo homer to right field in the second inning. Seager jumped on a fastball from Twins' starter Yohan Pino and blasted it deep into the right-field stands for his 14th long ball of the season.
But the Twins answered with two runs in the top of the third.
Tom Wilhelmsen, who got the spot start, issued a one-out walk to Sam Fuld and then allowed a single to Brian Dozier. With Kurt Suzuki at the plate, the runners executed a double steal with huge jumps off Wilhelmsen. Catcher Mike Zunino forced a throw to third base but had trouble getting it around Suzuki in the batter's box. The throw sailed into left field, allowing Fuld to trot home and Dozier to move to third. Suzuki scored Dozier with a sacrifice fly to center to make it 2-1.
The Twins pushed the lead to 4-1 in the fifth inning. Suzuki and Chris Parmelee came up with two-out, back-to-back singles off Danny Farquhar. McClendon called on Joe Beimel to force the switch-hitting Kendrys Morales to bat from the right side. But the former Mariner designated hitter continued to play well at Safeco, Morales hammered the first pitch he saw to center. James Jones misread the ball at first, coming in a few steps. He retreated but couldn't make the catch. It went for a double, allowing both runs to score.
Morales, who came in to the series struggling and hitting just above .200, went 5 for 15 in the series with three doubles and five RBI.
The Mariners current DH didn't have quite that production.
Corey Hart's struggles since returning from the disabled list continued. Batting fifth behind Robinson Cano and Kyle Seager, he had prime chances to kick-start the Mariners' lifeless offense. Hart came to the plate in the bottom of the third with the bases loaded and two outs. After working Pino to a 3-2 count, he struck out on a curveball to end the inning.
Two innings later in the fifth, Hart was given a chance at redemption in the same situation--bases loaded and two outs. But with his timing still clearly off, he hit a fastball off the end of the bat, cueing a spinner of a ground ball to first base that was gloved by Chris Parmelee and flipped to Pino covering at first for the third out.
Seattle cut the lead to 4-2 in the seventh inning. Endy Chavez, Jones and Cano had three straight one-out singles to load the bases. Kyle Seager hit a sacrifice fly to left field to score Chavez. But Jones got a little too risky, trying to tag from second and advance to third. Trevor Plouffe cut off the ball from left field and fired to third base. Jones was originally ruled safe. But Twins manager Ron Gardenhire challenged the ruling and replays showed that Jones was out, ending the inning.
The bullpen start was serviceable and kept the Mariners in the game. Six relievers combined to throw nine innings, giving up three earned runs on nine hits with five walks and four strikeouts.
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