After an unexpected 3-0 start, the Mariners are quickly beginning to bury themselves in the AL West. Now in their traditional fourth-place spot after spending the season’s opening week in first, they managed two hits Saturday off Henderson Alavarez, who tossed a complete game, and crumbled lamely to the Miami Marlins 7-0, their fifth consecutive defeat.
Seattle fell to 7-10 overall and 1-5 on a seven-game road trip that concludes Sunday. The Mariners have also lost eight of 10 and are 4-10 since that 3-0 start. The shutout was Seattle’s fourth of the season and third in the last seven games.
“This is a tough stretch for us,” said manager Lloyd McClendon. “Everybody goes through it. We’re just going through it now. We have to grind it out and keep going.”
Alvarez retired the first 15 Mariners before allowing a single to Dustin Ackley leading off the sixth. But Ackley was quickly snuffed out on a double play and the Mariners generated zilch off Alvarez until the ninth when Mike Zunino doubled with one out. Alvarez induced two quick groundouts (Nick Franklin and Abraham Almonte), his 16th and 17th of the game, to end it.
“His stuff was exceptional and he was pounding the zone pretty good,” McClendon told reporters. “I thought he threw extremely well. He was sinking it and cutting it, had a power change up and mixed in his curve ball. He was tough. When you run into a guy who has three or four pitches working, it’s going to be tough, I don’t care who you are.”
The Marlins collected single runs in the third and fourth innings before erupting for four in the sixth, the big blow a three-run homer from Marcell Ozuna that chased Seattle starter Roenis Elias. Miami added a seventh run in the eighth when Ozuna collected his fourth RBI with a run-scoring single.
Although Elias allowed six earned runs on eight hits while striking out five and walking five, he at least gave manager McClendon six innings of work, which eased some of the pressure on Seattle’s beleaguered bullpen. Seattle’s two previous starters, Erasmo Ramirez (2.0) and Chris Young (3.0), combined for five innings.
“I thought threw he threw pretty darned good,” McClendon said of Elias. “He was one out from having a fantastic outing. But I thought he did a great job.”
Over the past three outings, Mariners starters have allowed 15 runs on 21 hits with AAA callup Brandon Maurer scheduled to start Sunday against the last-place team in the National League East. He will be on a strict pitch count.
The 24-year-old Alvarez, who threw a no-hitter against Detroit Sept. 29, went to a three-ball count on only one batter through 6.2 innings. He finished with four strikeouts and no walks and aided his cause with an RBI single in the sixth, driving in shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria, who went 3-for-4 and scored twice.
Robinson Cano continued his struggles on the trip. After going 0-for-3 Saturday, he’s 4-for-25 (.160) and is batting .254 for the season.
NEXT: Maurer makes his 2014 debut for the Mariners Sunday. Maurer, 0-2, 2.14 in four games at AAA Tacoma this season, will oppose RHP Kevin Slowey (0-0, 4.38). The Mariners return to Safeco Field Monday night to face the Houston Astros. Felix Hernandez (3-0, 1.91) will go for his fourth win. LHP Dallas Keuchel (1-1, 3.50) will throw for the Astros.
NOTES: Maurer is seventh starting pitcher used in 18 games by Seattle this season. The Mariners used 11 starting pitchers last year and seven in 2012.