Turns out there is no place like home. Especially when it’s really not your own home.
In a truly 2020 moment, the Mariners moved their home series against the Giants to San Francisco on Wednesday to avoid the unhealthy air quality in Seattle. But playing as the home team in Oracle Park did no favors for the Mariners as they dropped a 9-3 decision and remained two games back of Houston in the race for the No. 2 playoff spot in the American League West.
Rookie right-hander Ljay Newsome, making his third start in place of the traded Taijuan Walker, gave up eight hits and five runs in three innings as he fell to 0-1 with a 6.35 ERA in his first stint in the Majors after making the jump from Double-A.
Newsome was knocked out by a line drive by Giants shortstop Brandon Crawford in the second inning of his previous start on Aug. 8. This time the 23-year-old just was KO’d by San Francisco’s bats as he gave up two home runs and three doubles in a 63-pitch outing.
In fairness to Newsome, he’d pitched just 1 1/3 innings over the previous 19 days due to one start being wiped out by a positive COVID-19 test that postponed a series with the A’s, then the short outing when he took the line drive off his wrist. Even this start was delayed another day when smoke from the West Coast wildfires pushed the series south to the Bay Area.
Newsome is typically a strike thrower who relies on his command and ability to keep hitters off balance, but he didn’t have his typical pin-point control and the Giants took advantage.
“It really started early in the game with the leadoff walk,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said. “That’s not something in Ljay’s DNA. He goes right after them and has a good feel. He tried to slow it down after that, but he never really got into a really good rhythm like he typically does.”
Newsome didn’t cast any blame on his sporadic recent usage or the odd circumstances of moving this game to San Francisco at the last minute for his difficulties, however.
“I had no thought of that. I just kept everything the same,” Newsome said. “My arm felt good, I was just more middle of the plate instead of commanding it.”
Newsome is one of three rookies in the Mariners’ rotation as they continue using this season as a developmental year for a young roster. That group has performed well enough of late to pull Seattle into the playoff conversation, though at 22-27 they’re in the running only because the Astros have lost 10 of their last 13 and sit at 24-25 after a 1-0 loss to Texas on Wednesday.
The Mariners flew to San Francisco on Wednesday morning, with the coaches and some of the players heading straight to the ballpark upon arrival. It certainly wasn’t a normal situation for a team that is supposed to be in the middle of a 10-game homestand. But then, not much has been normal this year.
“No excuses,” Servais said. “I have to give the Giants’ people credit. The scoreboard had our pregame video hype thing on it, the guys had their walk-up songs and they did everything they could here. Sometimes you get dealt a tough hand and you have to figure out how to play it. We have to come out tomorrow and be on top of our game. The Giants are playing very well.”
Erik Swanson, making his first appearance since returning from the injured list, replaced Newsome and gave up four hits and three runs (two earned) while getting just one out before veteran Casey Sadler finally stabilized things.
Sadler, acquired off waivers from the Cubs 11 days ago, struck out the first five batters he faced and threw 2 2/3 scoreless innings. The 30-year-old has yet to allow a run in 5 2/3 innings in his first three outings for Seattle on just two hits.
Sadler has proven capable of adjusting quickly to new situations and said Wednesday’s unusual circumstances just fit into that mode.
“This season, you’ve kind of got to be ready for the unexpected,” Sadler said. “All of us have played in Triple-A and been on that 6:30 a.m. flight to who knows where to play a game. It was a little different, but you just have to roll with the punches this year and make the most of your time and do the best you can to adjust.”