Alarm sounds -- in every sense -- for Mariners

June 20th, 2022

SEATTLE -- In a metaphorically cruel moment, an alarm began wailing throughout T-Mobile Park during the sixth inning of the Mariners’ matinee on Sunday. Play halted for roughly five minutes as the fans on hand were asked to remain in their seats.

A sprinkler in a concession stand triggered the commotion, yet it was impossible not to recognize the parallel between the shrieking noise in the middle of the Mariners’ latest defeat, a 4-0 loss to the Angels, and a symbolic alarm going off on Seattle’s spiraling season.

The game, to that point, had been a rewind of the Mariners’ massively disappointing 3-8 homestand, featuring runners consistently stranded, a scoreless offense and a two-run deficit that seemed mountainous. To add insult to injury, Mike Trout was exclusively responsible for the Angels’ lead via his fifth homer of the series, continuing an individual tormenting of the Mariners that has been going for more than a decade.

Eventually, the alarm and accompanying strobe lights subsided, play resumed and Ty France stepped back in with two outs and Justin Upton on third base. One pitch later, the alarm sounded again but quickly stopped, then France rolled into an inning-ending groundout -- a microcosmic moment in this trying season. Even the Mariners’ best and most consistent hitter couldn’t break through when an opportunity presented itself.

The Mariners didn’t reach third base the rest of the game, and as such, were shut out for the fourth time on this 11-game homestand and 10th time this season, tied with the Tigers -- the worst offense in baseball -- for the most in the Majors.

This latest defeat, their fourth in five games to an Angels club that entered the weekend having lost 18 of 20, dropped the Mariners to 29-39, eight games back of the third and final AL Wild Card spot, with five teams ahead. They are now 10 games below .500 for the first time since Aug. 21, 2020, when they were 9-19 in the pandemic-shortened season.

The alarm, as the ballpark symbolically suggested, is sounding.

“We’ve got 94 games left. We’ve got to make a run,” France said. “There are still a lot of ballgames left, but the window is closing fast. It’s time to go.”

Mariners players have preached the importance of staying positive, flushing away tough days and not getting ahead of themselves in brighter spots. But as Seattle’s tumble becomes more dramatic, its offensive limitations become more pronounced, the schedule shrinks to a point where winning series will no longer be a feasible way to climb out of this hole, and seemingly no reinforcements are coming to save the day, the “good vibes only” are becoming fewer and farther between.

“This is not fun,” France said. “This is not what we expected coming into this year, and we need to turn things around fast.”

A team meeting was held early Sunday morning for players and coaches to sort out any issues, get things off their chests and assess where they're at competitively. It was a positive conversation, but it didn’t yield immediate on-field results.

“It was just, ‘Hey, what's going on?’” France said. “This is where we're at and this is what needs to be done if we want to be successful and go further into the season.”

This homestand was always going to be a huge test for the Mariners, an 11-game gauntlet in 10 days, featuring opponents surrounding them in the Wild Card hunt and a chance to substantially chip into that deficit. Their road slate had been brutal, but they won each series over a three-city weave and seemingly were on the up -- especially after a huge week at their house of horrors in Houston.

But that momentum was quashed over the past week by the same formula that has left the fanbase frustrated: another solid starting pitching performance with little, and sometimes zero, run support. Sunday was a prime example, with Logan Gilbert twirling six strong innings and paying mightily for the one mistake he made against Trout.

Other than that, Gilbert was nails, surrendering just three other hits and zero walks. After his outing, Seattle’s starting pitchers have a combined 2.69 ERA since May 25, the third best in the Majors. The offense, meanwhile, has a .679 OPS in that same stretch, eighth worst. They haven’t scored in 20 innings.

After a doubleheader sweep on Saturday, Servais suggested players need to make adjustments, specifically for a better all-field approach with runners in scoring position. Then, the team went 0-for-5 in such situations and stranded another five. France said that the team is pressing in those moments.

“We all kind of have a plan and approach going into the game, and I think we're doing a good job of being stubborn with it,” France said. “But we're just not getting the job done, plain and simple.”

France, the offense’s biggest contributor, spoke with heightened urgency for the first time all season, underscoring where Seattle sits in a season that’s slipping away. The Mariners now head back on the road, where they are 14-21 this season, preaching a need to turn things -- and quickly.