J-Rod's 3-hit night can't lift Mariners

May 10th, 2022

SEATTLE -- They’re without key contributors, they continue to struggle against left-handed pitching, and after Monday’s 9-0 loss to the Phillies at T-Mobile Park, the Mariners’ bats are still searching for answers as their prolonged offensive issues continued. 

Even in its longest comparable period last season, Seattle was never in a stretch like what it is in now, having lost 11 of its past 13 dating back to April 27. The club was also shut out for the fifth time in 29 games -- an MLB high -- after being blanked just eight times last year and not once after June 11. The Royals, A’s and D-backs, teams that were expected to struggle in 2022, are the only other teams that have been shut out at least four times this season.

And in perhaps a tough-luck coincidence -- along with some of his own challenges with location against an unforgiving and powerful Phillies lineup --  was on the hill. In six starts this year, he has received a combined five runs of support, and his 1.35 runs of support per nine innings is the lowest for any starting pitcher in baseball.

One bright spot that emerged on Monday -- which could be significant as Seattle looks to get on track at the plate -- was Julio Rodríguez going 3-for-4, his second career three-hit game. Over his past 17 games, the rookie center fielder is hitting .339/.379/.484 (.863 OPS) after posting a .136/.208/.159 (.367 OPS) line in his first 12 contests. He was at the center of the Mariners’ best highlight, legging out a hustle double and sliding under a tag from former Seattle infielder Jean Segura.

Yet Rodríguez represented nearly all of Seattle’s production. Jesse Winker’s dribbling single in the second inning down the third-base line, away from the shift and with a wide throw from Alec Bohm, was the club’s only other hit. Winker is now hitting .200/.315/.276 (.591 OPS) , though his expected metrics entering the day -- .322 average, .486 slugging percentage, per Statcast -- continued to remain high, suggesting things will steer in his favor eventually.

But that doesn’t exactly translate for a team seeking tangible results.

“Like I told the team, nobody feels sorry for you in this league,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said. “You've got to show up. You've got to compete every night, and tonight we didn't do a very good job, obviously. We got our lunch handed to us.”

Injuries to Mitch Haniger (high right ankle sprain), J.P. Crawford (back spasms) and Tom Murphy (dislocated left shoulder) are looming larger by the day, and the anticipation of the possible return of Kyle Lewis (right meniscus surgery) grows more palpable.

Crawford, who is expected to return Tuesday, is the Mariners’ best on-base hitter, Haniger the club’s top run producer and Murphy one of their better bats against lefties. They’ve been three of the five best since the start of 2021 against southpaws by wRC+. And Seattle certainly could’ve used them against Phillies starter Ranger Suárez, who racked up seven strikeouts and allowed just the four hits, two walks and one hit batter while limiting the Mariners to 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position and, obviously, stranding all seven baserunners.

Suárez had allowed just two hits to lefties all season entering Monday, and the Mariners entered the night hitting .207/.310/.359 (.669 OPS) against lefties.

“We're struggling, there's no question,” Servais said. “We've got some players out of the lineup. You take Mitch Haniger and Tom Murphy and J.P. Crawford out, those guys are not just regular players for us, but key contributors -- guys that in the clubhouse, in the dugout, certainly on the field, add a lot. So that hurts now. What do you do at that point? You've got to figure out a way. You give an opportunity to other guys, you hope they step up and take it and run with it.”

That lack of production put Flexen on more of a tightrope, and he found himself playing from behind early after surrendering back-to-back homers to Segura and Rhys Hoskins in the second inning. He then allowed an RBI single to J.T. Realmuto in the third and RBIs to three consecutive batters -- [Nick] Castellanos, Realmuto and Segura -- in the fifth that essentially put the game out of reach.