Mariners end forgettable trip on low note

September 26th, 2022

KANSAS CITY -- This road trip couldn’t end soon enough for the Mariners.

What was already a trip to forget spiraled into losing a nine-run lead in the sixth inning and falling to the Royals, 13-12, on Sunday afternoon at Kauffman Stadium. 

Seattle heads home after an abysmal 10-game road trip that took two stars out of the lineup and resulted in seven losses.

“Not a great road trip,” manager Scott Servais said. “Certainly might be an understatement, but this was a tale of two games today. We came out and did a lot of good things offensively and had a commanding lead in the ballgame, and then we let our guard down a little bit and shut it down.”

The road trip shut down two of the Mariners’ best players, when Eugenio Suárez (right index finger fracture) landed on the 10-day injured list on Sept. 17, followed by American League Rookie of the Year front-runner Julio Rodríguez (lower back strain) on Friday.

There’s nothing to be done about injuries, but blowing a nine-run lead late in the season is something that the Mariners can only hope doesn’t come back to bite them at the end of the year.

“You just have to flush it out as much as it’s going to haunt us,” shortstop J.P. Crawford said. “The reality of it is you just have to forget about it and remember there are bigger games ahead of us and not dwell on it.”

Starter appears to be the No. 1 for the Mariners after signing a five-year extension on Saturday, but he recently hasn’t been the ace they need with the postseason near.

Castillo gave up five runs over 5 1/3 innings on Sunday, allowing seven hits and three walks while fanning five. This comes after allowing four runs over 4 2/3 innings in his last start against Oakland.

“I feel good physically,” Castillo said. “The thing is it was a long inning [right before] and I was on the bench for most of it and I think that affected me.”

The next three pitchers -- Matt Festa, Matt Brash and Erik Swanson -- allowed a combined eight earned runs in two-thirds of an inning and allowed Kansas City the most runs the club had scored in an inning since 2004.

“Go back to something we talk about all the time, which is controlling the strike zone, and we gave them an opportunity to come back in the game because we didn’t throw strikes,” Servais said. “The momentum gets going and it’s hard to stop when the ball gets rolling down the hill like that.”

A bright spot in the game was Seattle’s offense and patience at the plate. The Mariners took advantage of lackluster pitching in the fifth inning from the Royals, who walked or hit five batters in that inning alone. Nine Mariners contributed an RBI and Crawford, Ty France and Mitch Haniger all had two apiece.

It was quite the contrast to how much of the road trip went, as the Mariners scored one run in five of their past 10 games.

But it’s not easy to replace two of the best bats in your lineup -- Suárez and Rodríguez -- and expect runs to come as naturally.

Servais gave all indications that Suárez should be back by Tuesday or Wednesday and Rodríguez could return for the final home series of the season.

And with the Mariners in a good spot to still make the postseason, getting back to their style of clean baseball is more important than anything else.

“This was a disappointing loss, but we haven’t played good baseball on this trip,” Servais said. “I talked to the team afterward and told them we’ve got to get back to playing [the] baseball we have all year that has allowed us to be in this position.”

With 10 home games left in the season, the Mariners are within reach of a playoff berth. If the cards fall right, Seattle could host in the American League Wild Card Series as they sit just 2 1/2 games behind Toronto for that spot.

The silver lining in it all is the Mariners are headed back home and hope to clinch their spot into the playoffs in front of their fans at T-Mobile Park in the next week and a half.

“We’ve got plenty left, there's no question about it,” Servais said. “You can’t let a game like today define our season, and it won’t. We will not let that happen.”