Mariners: Bats wake up but not enough in 6-5 loss to Guardians

A combination of poor pitching and more fielding mistakes results in the Mariners dropping their first series of 2023, versus the Guardians.

One of these days the Mariners will produce sound pitching, defense and offense in the same game. For now though they have to deal with the reality they lost their first series of 2023, punctuated by a 6-5 extra innings loss on Sunday.

The bats which were so sorely missing the night before, made a welcome return in the series finale versus Cleveland. Ultimately though, it just wasn’t enough during another uneven performance by Seattle.

The defining moment came in the top of the 10th, with the Mariners facing a bases-loaded situation. With the game on the line, the usually reliable Cal Raleigh made an unfortunate error.

The opportunity to end the threat by the Guardians with a double play never got a chance. Raleigh threw an errant ball past Ty France at first base, allowing Jose Ramirez to score what proved to be the winning run.

Raleigh was understandably inconsolable afterwards. Speaking to the media, he said:

“The game just kind of sped up, but I’ve got to know whether to eat the ball, or if he’s running in line tight like that, then I’ve got to make a better throw. At the end of the day, I just didn’t get it done.”

Gonzales struggles in first start of year

As with all three losses to start this season, there was more than enough blame to be passed around. On Sunday, one of the other culprits was Marco Gonzales.

At one point Gonzales was considered the staff ace, albeit somewhat by default. Fair or not, at times during his first start of 2023 he didn’t look worthy of being in the rotation full stop.

The 31-year-old gave up six hits, four runs and two walks, while only striking out one batter in 5.0 innings. Ironically, a lot of the damage was done by his former catcher, Mike Zunino.

Zunino was quite simply unstoppable against Seattle, with a trio of hits, three RBIs and two runs. The RBIs came courtesy of a three-run homer in the top of the second.

Gonzales acknowledged his former teammate just got the better of him on the home run blast. He said:

“The pitch to Zunino is one I’d like to have back, just overthinking things. It was actually a backdoor cutter that was probably my best cutter of the day, but it just came all the way back over the plate. Unfortunately Z knows me really well and I just couldn’t get him out today.”

Despite his struggles, Gonzales was still in a position to get the win when he was taken out. This alludes to how much better the bats were compared to the previous night.

Mariners bats make a welcome re-appearance

Julio Rodriguez once again led the way, with two hits. This included a solo home run shot in the first, to give the Mariners a short-lived 1-0 lead.

France, Raleigh and Eugenio Suarez also had two hits each, as Seattle complied nine in total. This included Teoscar Hernandez’s first hit in a Mariners uniform.

Ultimately though it wasn’t enough, with the M’s failing to respond in the bottom of the 10th to Cleveland’s go-ahead score. Despite having a man on third with just one out, first Suarez and then Raleigh failed to capitalize.

Manager Scott Servais certainly believed his players didn’t take advantage of the opportunity in the 10th. He said:

“What happens in these late-innings games or extra-innings games, it’s often times not one team that wins it, but maybe the other team loses it. That’s how I felt we did today – we gave them the ball game.”

In one respect it’s too early to be concerned as such about dropping three of the first four games in 2023. After all, this is a ball club which at one point was 10 games under .500 last season, before recovering for their first playoff appearance in 21 years.

At the same time however, the offense is showing similar issues to last year. Throw in some uncharacteristic sloppy defense and two poor starts by the rotation, and there is plenty for Seattle to work on.

Small margin for error

The four-game series versus the Guardians also allude to the previous two seasons, with the Mariners often playing in close contests. In fact, Seattle had the most one-run wins in 2021 and 2022 combined.

In this respect, Servais knows what has to change in order to get back to winning ways. He said:

“Not the way we were hoping to start the season in the opening series. We play in a lot of close games and the reason we’ve been on the successful side and winning a lot of those, is because we play clean at the end of the game.”

Ultimately, Servais has confidence in his players moving forward. As he said:

“We have a really good team, we do. We’re not playing as good as we can right now, but we will.”

The Mariners will now aim to bounce back, in a three-game series at home versus the Los Angeles Angels. First up on the mound on Monday night will be George Kirby.

What is your mindset following the opening series versus the Guardians? Is it simply a case of the Mariners still looking for their rhythm, or are the first four games a prelude to longer-term issues? Let us know in the comments section below.

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