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Mariners push HR streak to 20, but slide hits 5

@gregjohnsmlb
April 17, 2019

SEATTLE -- Their Major League-record home run streak rolled on Tuesday, but the Mariners were more concerned with a five-game string of losses that continued unabated as they dropped a 4-2 decision to the Indians. Jay Bruce's solo shot off reliever Neil Ramirez with two out in the eighth extended

SEATTLE -- Their Major League-record home run streak rolled on Tuesday, but the Mariners were more concerned with a five-game string of losses that continued unabated as they dropped a 4-2 decision to the Indians.

Jay Bruce's solo shot off reliever Neil Ramirez with two out in the eighth extended Seattle’s streak to 20 consecutive games with a homer. It was Bruce’s eighth blast of the season.

Bruce is hitting just .175, but eight of his 11 hits have cleared the fence, including a soaring 437-footer to extend the record on Tuesday.

“Jay hits homers,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said. “He’s got a good swing going on certain pitches, he just wants to get more consistent. We’ll certainly take the homers, but the consistency is what Jay is looking for right now, too.”

The Mariners are now well beyond the previous MLB record of 14 straight games with a home run to open a season set by the 2002 Indians and they are just the 10th American League team to have homered in 20 or more consecutive games at any point in a season since 1908.

They’re seven shy of the Major League record of 27 straight games with a homer at any point set by the 2002 Rangers and are closing in on their own club record of 23 set in ‘13.

But after flexing those muscles early en route to a 13-2 record, the Mariners have dropped to 13-7 and fell out of the American League West lead for the first time after the Astros topped the A’s for their 10th straight win.

For a fourth night in a row, the Mariners couldn’t muster much offense at T-Mobile Park, this time stymied by 23-year-old right-hander Shane Bieber, who improved to 2-0 with a 1.71 ERA while allowing just four hits and a run over six frames.

After scoring five or more runs in 15 of their first 16 games, the Mariners have now totaled just nine runs in their past four losses. Backup catcher Tom Murphy accounted for half of Seattle’s hits as he went 3-for-4 with two doubles and drove in a run in the second, but that was all the Mariners could muster until Bruce’s late blast.

“I had a good day at the plate, for sure,” Murphy said. “But this team is so good offensively, you can’t judge our offense off one day. We’ve faced some good arms in the past few days here now. We’ll come back out tomorrow swinging for sure.”

During those last four games, the Mariners have hit just .172 with 47 strikeouts and eight walks while facing standouts Justin Verlander, Gerrit Cole, Trevor Bauer and now Bieber, who is 9-0 with 3.12 ERA in the first 14 road outings of his career for the Tribe.

Little miscue adds up to big difference

Mariners starter Mike Leake allowed just two runs on eight hits over six innings and could have escaped unscathed if not for a defensive misplay in the fourth inning.

With one out and a runner on first, Seattle second baseman Dee Gordon made an excellent diving stop of a shot up the middle by Jason Kipnis and flipped the ball with his glove to shortstop Tim Beckham for the forceout at second.

But Beckham dropped the ball on the transfer to his throwing hand and couldn’t complete what would have been an inning-ending double play. When Carlos Santana followed with an RBI double and scored on Hanley Ramirez’s base hit, the Indians held a 2-1 lead and Leake found himself in line for his first loss of the season.

“That was a tough play,” Servais said. “Certainly Dee made the toughest part of it and it started, but we just couldn’t finish it. Every out, every double-play ball, is huge in these tight games.”

Reliever Roenis Elias also gave up a pair of runs in the seventh, but those two runs proved to be the difference after Bruce chopped the deficit to 4-2.

The margin for error for the Mariners has tightened as the offense has been held in check by the Astros and now the Indians, two of the top teams in the league.

“I don’t think anybody expected that we’d score 7-8 runs per game,” Servais said. “You have to tighten up the defense, throw strikes out of the bullpen and hold teams right there to give our offense a chance to get going on certain nights. We haven’t done it. We just haven’t been able to do it in this homestand. We will get it going on offense again.”

Greg Johns has covered the Mariners since 1997, and for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB.