ANAHEIM -- The Mariners limped into the All-Star break, going 2-8 over their final 10 games of the first half. The second half isn’t off to a much better start, as Seattle was swept by the Angels with a 6-3 loss on Sunday.
“We got swept,” manager Scott Servais said. “We didn’t do a whole lot of things right, and they did. Everything contributed in this series to not getting the win here. It was pitching at times, it was defense at times, it was situational hitting; a little bit of everything.”
Here are three takeaways from the Mariners’ defeat in the series finale:
1) Angels continue to give Kikuchi trouble
Starter Yusei Kikuchi hasn’t had much success in his career against the Angels so far; he had surrendered 17 runs (16 earned) in 11 2/3 innings through his first three times facing them. Kikuchi showed some improvement in allowing three runs Sunday, but struggles with his breaking pitches saw him exit the game before recording an out in the fifth.
“He wasn’t quite as sharp with his breaking stuff today,” said Servais. “I thought his fastball was fine, but the secondary pitches really were not there with any consistency at all.”
Though Kikuchi only gave up two hits -- one of which was a Kole Calhoun home run -- he also issued four walks while striking out three. Still, it looked like things might be going better this time until the fifth inning, when he allowed a walk and a base hit without recording an out. At 87 pitches, Servais pulled his left-hander, though pitch count didn’t factor into the decision.
“Where Yusei was when he went out for the fifth inning, I thought his stuff had really backed up,” said Servais. “He kind of hit the proverbial wall.”
Kikuchi was able to find a bright spot in Sunday’s outing: Despite not having his best stuff, the Angels, who had 29 hits against him combined in those first three games, didn’t hit him as hard this time around.
“They have a really good lineup, first and foremost, but if you look at the results today, I didn’t get hit around,” said Kikuchi through an interpreter. “They had two hits, so the results weren’t as bad as the last two starts.”
2) Home run parade resumes
Power has not been a problem for Mariners hitters this season, despite a lack of it through the first two games of the second half. Austin Nola and Domingo Santana each hit a solo home run Sunday to bring the Mariners’ 2019 total to 162, second in the Major Leagues only to the Twins’ 171.
However, that hasn’t translated into winning results overall. The main problem, of course, is that Mariners pitchers have given up the second-most home runs of any staff in the Majors. Roenis Elias surrendered No. 162 in the eighth inning, a three-run blast by Matt Thaiss -- his first MLB homer -- to drive in the game’s deciding runs.
“Elias has been our most consistent guy all year long,” said Servais. “We’ve certainly seen Matt Thaiss play a lot … but we’re not thinking that’s going to happen there. But we didn’t locate the ball, we got behind in the count again and tried to come in with a fastball. Certainly a young player that’s got a lot of talent, but I like our chances in that spot; we just didn’t get it done.”
The Mariners have now either hit or surrendered home runs in all 97 games they’ve played this season, the longest such single-season streak in MLB history. The previous record was 69 games.
3) Baserunning blunders come back to haunt
The home runs allowed weren’t the only thing that hurt Seattle on Sunday. Although the Mariners had 12 men reach base on 10 hits, a walk and a hit by pitch, they did themselves no favors by making four outs on the basepaths.
A couple of those outs were runners caught stealing. The first was Kyle Seager, who was thrown out attempting to steal second base in the third. With two outs in the following inning, the Angels caught J.P. Crawford in a rundown between first and second, before nabbing Dylan Moore trying to swipe home on the play.
The other two basepath outs were more matters of circumstance, as Nola and Mallex Smith became victims of fielder’s choices trying to score from third on contact plays in the fourth and seventh, respectively. Nola admitted to pressing some to try and help a team finding runs hard to come by.
“I’m trying to make something happen,” said Nola. “I wish I could get it back, in hindsight, go back and not do it, but there’s nothing we can do about it. We can just learn from our mistakes.”