Mariners strand 15 baserunners in 'frustrating' finale defeat

July 8th, 2024

SEATTLE -- The Mariners looked like they were on the verge of regaining their late-inning and home-field mojo in front of a packed house on a gorgeous Sunday afternoon at T-Mobile Park. Instead, they left with a 5-4, 10-inning loss that resurfaced the same questions about their struggling offense.

“We just didn’t do anything,” said Cal Raleigh, who skied a 375-foot flyout to the warning track that ended the game. “There's nothing really to say at this point. We didn’t come through.”

The Mariners came away empty with the bases loaded in the eighth, ninth and 10th innings, for a total of 15 baserunners stranded for the day -- easily their most this season and one shy of the MLB high, done separately by the Giants and Brewers.

With the Astros being walked off in Minnesota, the Mariners couldn’t build upon their lead atop the American League West, which was trimmed from 10 games to two over a 16-day span during this midsummer swoon. They began this nine-game homestand with a 27-12 record at T-Mobile Park, but dropped two of three in each of these three series to finish their first-half home slate at 3-6. Overall, they’ve lost six straight series over the span of exactly three weeks.

“You've seen guys here, they have long track records, guys who've shown it before but it's not showing up right now,” Raleigh said. “That's a tough thing about baseball. You'd like to see it come a little more often, but it's not right now. And it's just frustrating and it's pretty obvious.”

Against a Toronto club that he’s tormented throughout his career, Raleigh was arguably the one player the Mariners wanted up most in that moment. If not, it’d be J.P. Crawford, who entered play hitting .609 with the bases loaded since the start of last season. But Crawford also fell short when grounding out to second baseman Davis Schneider, after which he shouted multiple expletives at himself as he took the field.

In between, Jorge Polanco was staked for the big at-bat in the ninth. Seattle’s struggling second baseman fell into a 1-2 count, then skied a flyout in foul territory down the third-base line. He finished the day 0-for-4 and is now hitting .161 with a .406 OPS and a 48.5% strikeout rate in 33 plate appearances since returning from the IL on June 24.

His status, despite earning $10.5 million this year and being one of Seattle’s key offseason acquisitions, is becoming more in question by the day.

“You've got to execute late in games,” Servais said, speaking about the team altogether. “That's something we're typically pretty good at. It doesn't always come through. It doesn't always happen for us. But when you have that many chances, it's frustrating. Everybody goes home tonight shaking their [heads].”

Polanco was hardly the only culprit on a day where the Mariners went 2-for-12 with runners in scoring position. But it’s clearly the most glaring as his struggles mount.

If the Mariners were to move on, beyond the remainder of Polanco’s 2024 salary, he’d be due a $750,000 buyout against a $12 million team option for ‘25. Their options would be some combination of Dylan Moore -- who had an .867 OPS in his first 40 games but has a .556 OPS in 34 games since -- and rookie Ryan Bliss, who’s had promising flashes, but also questions about his defense and himself has a 30.8% strikeout rate. There's also the July 30 Trade Deadline to work with for external talent.

Polanco was out of the starting lineup for three straight games before Sunday, by design as he rigorously works behind the scenes.

“When the game’s telling you something, you’ve got to listen to it,” Servais said on Friday. “And the game’s telling him right now he needs to make a big-time adjustment.”

Beyond Polanco, the Mariners now embark on their final road trip, to face an improved team in San Diego and one that they’ve had success against in Anaheim, with an opportunity to finish strong. Then after the All-Star break, the Astros visit for a series that could have major first-place implications. And then, of course, the Trade Deadline, which will shape their final stretch and hopeful playoff push.

Second base is hardly their only question mark at this stage, but it’s their most pressing.