SAN DIEGO -- The Mariners knew their trip to San Diego was a critical one. It served as a brief interlude before a four-game American League West showdown against the A's in Oakland. But as they hoped to start closing the gap in the division and Wild Card, they saw
SAN DIEGO -- The Mariners knew their trip to San Diego was a critical one. It served as a brief interlude before a four-game American League West showdown against the A's in Oakland. But as they hoped to start closing the gap in the division and Wild Card, they saw their playoff hopes slip further away, losing both games of a two-game set against the Padres, including Wednesday's 8-3 defeat at Petco Park.
With the Astros walking off against the A's earlier in the day, the Mariners fell to eight games back in the division. They didn't lose any ground behind the A's in the Wild Card race, but didn't gain any either, and will arrive in Oakland 5 1/2 games back for the second spot.
They'll need to fare far better against the A's than they did in San Diego as they cling to their playoff hopes. Erasmo Ramirez, who moved a day up in the rotation to pitch in place of the injured Marco Gonzales, was roughed up early by the Padres and never recovered. Hunter Renfroe blasted the biggest blow, a three-run homer in the third inning that put the Padres up 6-1. Ramirez gave up five straight hits in the third, which led to a four-run rally and his departure from the game. He finished his outing after three innings and allowed seven earned runs on nine hits for his shortest start of the season.
"His stuff was real flat today," manager Scott Servais said. "He struggled to put guys away. I thought that home run to Renfroe, three-run home run on a changeup, didn't execute the pitch, that was a big point in the game. When you get down, dig yourself a big hole like that, it's tough to get back out of."
It's been 17 years since the Mariners last made the playoffs, and they've made just four appearances total in their 42-year franchise history. They've managed to hang on in the postseason picture this season, even while scoring the fourth-fewest runs in the AL. Their lack of offense came back to bite them twice in San Diego though, as they scored just four runs in two games.
The series carried a similar tune to the one the Mariners have been whistling all season. They've been plagued by inconsistency, and have struggled to string together successful series.
"I think disappointing would be an understatement," Servais said. "We just didn't play good baseball here. Coming off the weekend, I thought we competed really well and were right in all the games against Arizona, a first-place club. We came here and just didn't play well.
"Right when we think we found a way to take a couple steps forward, we find a way to take a couple steps back," he added.
The Mariners have seven games remaining against the A's on their schedule, including their upcoming four-game series. They own a 7-5 record in the 12 previous times the two teams have faced off, but with 29 remaining games in the regular season, there's a sense of urgency to get the ball rolling. However, one of the benefits of wielding a veteran-based team is having experience in handling the pressure.
"This is the big leagues, you know?" designated hitter Nelson Cruz said. "You should have pressure every game and it's whatever you do with that pressure. But this is the big leagues. This is why you're here."
CAN'T SOLVE THE ROOKIES
For the second day in a row, the Mariners offense was unable to figure out a Padres rookie starter. One game after being blanked for eight innings by Jacob Nix, Joey Lucchesi held the Mariners to one run through 6 2/3 innings.
It didn't start out that way, though. The Mariners didn't score off Nix on Tuesday until the ninth inning, when Cruz homered. They tagged Lucchesi for a run early in the first inning, when Jean Segura singled for his 1,000th career hit. He came around to score one batter later, thanks to Robinson Cano's RBI single.
But that's all the Mariners would muster against Lucchesi, who yielded six hits while striking out nine. The Mariners would tack on two more runs in the eighth inning off Colten Brewer, when Cruz singled to drive in Andrew Romine. Cruz scored two batters later on Kyle Seager's double, but the deficit was too large for Seattle to overcome.
"He's funky," Servais said of Lucchesi. "He's deceptive in his delivery, and he's got that changeup that acts more like a curveball at times. It's a unique pitch, I hadn't seen that before."
There was no sugarcoating the loss, but a five-inning relief appearance by Roenis Elias softened the blow of a short start by Ramirez. Elias allowed just one run on four hits, limiting the damage of a rejuvenated Padres offense. His performance allowed Seattle to avoid using other pitchers in the bullpen, keeping them fresh for the Oakland series.
"Elias did a tremendous job today, giving us five innings and us kind of staying away from other guys in the 'pen," Servais said. "That's a tough job as the long guy to just go out there and keep battling and keep fighting."
In additon to his work on the mound, Elias also collected his first big league hit in the seventh.
Every reliever but Elias should be available for Thursday's game.
SEGURA DAY TO DAY
Segura is listed as day to day with a shin contusion after lining a foul ball off his leg in the sixth inning. He eventually left the game and was replaced by Romine. Preliminary X-rays were negative, and the team will evaluate how he feels before Thursday's game.
Wade LeBlanc gets the start for the first game of a pivotal four-game series in Oakland on Thursday. LeBlanc has been solid for Seattle since transitioning into the rotation in May. He holds a 3.83 ERA in 21 starts this season and is coming off a one-run, six-inning win against the D-backs. He'll face off against Frankie Montas. First pitch is scheduled for 7:05 p.m. PT.
Katie Woo is a reporter for MLB.com based in San Diego. Follow her on Twitter @katiejwoo.