In what has become a sad refrain, the Mariners trotted out Brandon Maurer, fell behind early, over-worked its bullpen and lost, this time 7-5 to the Angels in front of 11,657 at Safeco Field. The loss dropped Seattle (26-27) under .500 and split the four-game series. The Mariners haven’t won a series since taking three of four from Oakland May 5-7.
Maurer (1-4, 7.52 ERA) came into Thursday’s contest with a 6.99 ERA, 1.66 WHIP and an average of 4.2 innings in six starts. His seventh was more of the same.
For the fifth time in seven starts, he was unable to finish five innings. He allowed five runs on six hits and four walks and struck out two in four innings.
A problem for Maurer has been the inability to avoid the big inning. Thursday, it was the fourth. Trailing 1-0, with a runner on third and two outs, Maurer fell behind nine-hole hitter Grant Green and gave up an RBI single. After walking Kole Calhoun on four pitches, Erick Aybar delivered a three-run homer for a 5-0 lead.
Had Maurer recorded the out against Green, perhaps his and the Mariners’ fate is different. The margin for error is small, and Maurer is on the wrong side.
“I thought he was going to put together a good game early on, but the fourth inning got him,” manager Lloyd McClendon said of his starter. “The two-out bug got him again. We gave up four runs. It was tough. I thought we battled back, but it wasn’t enough.”
The leash on Maurer is short.
“Yeah, I agree with that. He has struggled,” McClendon said. ”When you look at options, you have to sit down and make sure you’ve got a viable option. That’s something Jack (Zduriencik) and I will talk about and see where we go from here. See if there’s something we can do to get (Maurer) straightened out.”
Meanwhile, the Angels didn’t stop scoring. In the sixth off reliever Dominic Leone, Mike Trout drove in Kole Calhoun from second with a single. The run snapped a 9.1-inning scoreless streak for Leon back to May 3 at Houston.
With Robinson Cano receiving his first break from the lineup due to an illness, Michael Saunders got his first opportunity to hit third and continued the production the M’s are accustomed to from that spot. Saunders hit a two-run home run in the fourth inning, his third, then added an RBI on a sacrifice fly in the sixth that cut the Los Angeles (30-23) lead to 6-3.
Seattle wasn’t able to do much else against Angels’ starter Matt Shoemaker, recalled from AAA Salt Lake prior to the game. Shoemaker (3-1, 3.54 ERA) pitched 5.1 innings, allowing three runs on four hits and struck out six. James Jones (2-for-4 with a double) and Brad Miller were the only other M’s hitters to reach base against Shoemaker.
Saunders became the fifth Mariner with 20 or more RBI.
“Saundo continues to impress,” McClendon said of his right-fielder. “Knock on wood, I think he’s starting to turn the page and becoming a pretty darn good major league player.”
Kyle Seager hit a two-run homer with one out in the ninth to trim the Angels’ lead to 7-5.
“You never want to get down by (five runs),” Seager said. “He was throwing the ball well, kept us off balance and unfortunately we weren’t quite able to get out of it.”
One positive coming was a good evening at the plate for Miller, mired in a serious slump. Miller entered the game hitting .098 (8-for-82) in his last 27 games. The shortstop finished 2-for-3 with two hard-hit singles, one night after taking two walks. Could Miller be on the upswing?
“I see improvement,” said McClendon. “There’s only one way to go from here — up. He’s starting to swing the bat a little bit.”
RHP Taijuan Walker felt good Thursday, a day after throwing 61 pitches in three innings at AAA Tacoma in his first rehab start since April 9. He is scheduled to throw a bullpen Friday and make a second rehab start on Monday in El Paso.