Mariners take a too-familiar step back

June 28th, 2023

SEATTLE -- It was shaping up to be arguably the Mariners’ most emotionally charged victory of the year, one that would’ve been fueled by a rallying benches-clearing incident, late hustle and a would-be walk-off in extra innings.

Instead, Seattle was stung by watching another winnable game slither through its fingers -- a 7-4 loss in 11 innings against the Nationals on Tuesday night at T-Mobile Park. The defeat, perhaps their most deflating of the season, has them, in their own words, “stagnant.”

"I just look at us, and we're not a good baseball team right now, straight up,” said catcher , who made the third straight out in the 10th inning with the bases loaded. “I think it's nice and all, all the kind of good vibes and whatever. But we're not playing well right now, and we know it. And we need to turn it around.”

Before Raleigh grounded out in a 2-0 count on a high-and-in fastball, Ty France popped out in foul territory on an inside slider and Teoscar Hernández check-swung for strike three on a heater way outside. It was a frustrating moment for the heart of Seattle’s order with the bases juiced -- compounded by doing so against pitches that were well out of territory to effectively put balls in play. 

“We just didn't execute; it was three terrible at-bats,” Raleigh said. “We have to find a way to get that run in. That's what good teams do, and we're not doing it right now.”

The pitch locations on the three outs for the Mariners with the bases loaded in the bottom of the 10th inning.

Moments after, in his first outing off the injured list, Trevor Gott surrendered a down-the-line, two-run double to Lane Thomas and then an RBI single to Luis García for an extra gut punch to even this three-game series. But the game wasn't lost there.

Beyond the 10th, Seattle also stranded runners at first and second base in the ninth. Eugenio Suárez ripped a one-out double and was replaced by pinch-runner José Caballero. Then Jarred Kelenic was intentionally walked, positioning the Mariners with their two best baserunners on. But Dylan Moore struck out looking and Kolten Wong popped out to halt the rally.

Overall, Seattle stranded nine baserunners and went 0-for-10 with runners in scoring position, with five of those hitless at-bats in walk-off situations.

“We should have won the game,” manager Scott Servais said. “There's no if ands or buts about it. Really disappointing.”

For the majority of June, a month in which they are 9-12, the Mariners have talked -- and, at times, implemented -- a more patient and disciplined approach. But then it seemingly evaporates in high-stakes moments.

"We're just kind of stagnant,” Raleigh said. “I don't really feel like there's been a big change. It's not on anybody else except us. We've got to find a way to change.

“We keep saying it over and over, I feel like this is getting repetitive. It's win a couple, lose a couple, win a couple, lose a couple. You guys come and ask the same questions. We've got to fix something.”

Has it felt like in recent weeks the issues have been on track to being solved?

"No, the problem hasn't been fixed yet,” Raleigh said. “I don't know what comes first -- winning or fixing the problem, wherever it might be. But we've got to pick it up. We know it. We're better than this. We know it. We have really good players in this clubhouse. We’ve just got to find a way to get it done.”

There’s no metric from FanGraphs or Baseball Savant to track winnable games that fell through, but the Mariners have seemingly stacked them. Tuesday felt eerily similar to a late loss to the White Sox on June 17. There was a scoreless showing behind George Kirby’s complete game in Philadelphia on April 27, a 1-0 loss. The day prior, the Mariners blew an eighth-inning lead. There are more.

Tuesday’s was simply the most glaring, particularly for a team whose identity was defined by tight, late-innings tilts the past two years has now lost eight games in extra innings -- the most in MLB.

“We've got a group of guys. They work really hard. They prepare very hard,” Servais said. “But ultimately, in the game, you’ve got to take a deep breath and make it happen.”

Now, the Mariners will look to avoid a losing series against a last-place team in their final homestand ahead of the All-Star break -- because the climb remains only uphill from here.