Little was said in the home clubhouse after the Mariners’ latest one-run setback. The rubber game in the Cubs series Sunday played out similarly to the preceding three months of losing baseball at Safeco Field. A 7-6 defeat to Chicago (35-45) pushed the Mariners (35-47) to a new low of 12 below .500 as they dropped the series and finale of an eight-game homestand.
Winning three of eight at your own place is no way to turn around a season.
Nor is deploying Jeremy Bonderman when his pitches are up in the strike zone. The Cubs took no issue with capitalizing. Their four doubles in the second inning built a quick 3-0 lead.
“He never really got going today,” manager Eric Wedge said of Bonderman, who had posted four consecutive quality starts after a shaky season debut at Minnesota. “They were really laying off some tough pitches and squaring him up pretty good. Ultimately, we had to get him out of there.”
Sloppy defense was no cure, either. That came in the fourth when third baseman Kyle Seager allowed a Wellington Castillo ground ball to scoot through his legs and into left field after Darwin Barney led off the inning with a double.
After Luis Valbuena grounded out, Starlin Castro followed with an RBI single, and Bonderman’s day was over. His final line: 3.1 innings, six hits and six runs, only four of which were earned.
Chicago’s Anthony Rizzo and Alfonso Soriano would tack on two more RBIs to give the Cubs a 7-1 lead before Blake Beavan worked out of the inning.
But not before Seattle yielded three unearned runs. Not a winning formula — even against a National League doormat.
“If I made some more pitches in the inning I came into, it probably would have been a different ballgame,” Beavan said after working 4.2 innings of three-hit, one-run ball.
To their credit, the Mariners nearly made it one.
In the fifth, shortstop Brad Miller energized the sun-drenched 24,701 in attendance with a leadoff double, the first hit of his major league career. He would later come around to score when Nick Franklin hit a two-out RBI single.
“It was a little weight lifted off me just because I wanted to get in the swing of things and help out,” Miller, 22, said after going 2-for-3 with a pair of doubles in the third game of his career.
A Jason Bay solo home run in the seventh inning cut the deficit to 7-3. Raul Ibanez did the same to lead off the eighth, the 19th of his age-defying season. The line drive landed several rows up in right center and extended Ibanez’s hitting streak to seven games.
“He’s a professional hitter and he’s had a great first half,” Wedge said. “He’s been so big for us and obviously with our runners-in-scoring-position issues (the Mariners were 1 for 14 in RISP Sunday), you look at what he does and how he handles certain situations and it’s right there in front of you to watch and learn from.”
Seager did that two batters later, busting out of a 1-for-26 slump by hitting a towering two-run home run down the right-field line to cut the lead to one. Back-to-back walks from a shaky Chicago bullpen made the biggest comeback win of the season feel imminent. But a pinch-hitting Mike Zunino popped out and Endy Chavez grounded out to third to end Seattle’s final scoring threat.
“The guys did a great job of fighting back today,” Wedge said after the Mariners dropped to 10-15 in one-run affairs. “We had our opportunities but that’s not good enough.”
Just like the first half of the season.
Notes: The Mariners traded outfielder Eric Thames to the Baltimore Orioles for Ty Kelly, an infielder hitting .283 for their AA affiliate in the Eastern League . . . Wedge pre-game said Dustin Ackley is day-to-day with a thumb injury after jamming it Saturday diving for a ball in center field… Michael Saunders was unavailable to do anything but pinch run for the second consecutive day after jamming his hand Friday diving back into third base . . . Wedge pre-game said shortstop Brendan Ryan was “on call” to play outfield if anybody else went down with an injury. Mike Morse and Franklin Gutierrez are on the disabled list . . . Wedge dropped Seager to fifth in the lineup. He entered 1-for-23 in the last seven days . . . According to Wedge, relief pitcher Stephen Pryor (60-day DL) threw a 30-pitch bullpen earlier in the week . . . Jason Bay has 10 home runs this season. All have been solo shots . . . Franklin went 2-for-5, raising his average to .295 . . . Ibanez hit 10 home runs in June, matching his career high.