The Mariners lose for the first time this season to the Athletics, not helped by the absence of George Kirby and Julio Rodríguez.
When the Mariners spent more than half of the season hovering around the .500 mark, the assumption by many was that they would not make the playoffs. Since becoming the hottest team in baseball, the overriding sentiment turned into one of belief that this team will now qualify for the postseason for a second consecutive year.
The lesson here is that you should never assume or take anything for granted, especially when you have a history like the Seattle Mariners. However, just in case, the team and their fans were given a bit of a reminder on Tuesday night.
Heading into the day, the Mariners were on a four-game winning streak and had the outright lead in the AL West. They hadn’t lost to the Athletics all season, with Monday’s 7-0 victory improving their record to 8-0 versus their hapless divisional rivals.
George Kirby was set to take the mound as arguably the best pitcher in the rotation. And Julio Rodríguez was the hottest bat in the game, following a record-breaking streak which had catapulted him to the top of the AL hitting leader board. (Admittedly helped by the Blue Jays’ Bo Bichette suffering his second injury of the season.)
A day of absences and injury
However, the Mariners are that one team where things seem to go wrong, even when they’re going right. As such, Kirby and Rodríguez were of course both scratched, through illness and left foot soreness respectively.
As if this wasn’t enough, Ty France exited Tuesday’s game during the third inning with a bruised left thumb. France and Rodríguez have both been listed as day-to-day.
Mariners manager Scott Servais acknowledged the concern about the potential to lose two of the team’s best hitters for any period of time. Speaking postgame, he said:
“We’ll see how these guys feel when they come in tomorrow. … You just never know. Things happen. Things come up, and we have been pretty injury-free here through the whole month of August.”
A terrible start for Weaver
With Kirby’s absence, the Mariners turned the ball over to Luke Weaver. The righty recently singed a deal with the Mariners, after being released by the Reds.
Weaver subsequently lasted just 3.2 innings in a disastrous start. He allowed seven hits and three earned runs, recorded no strikeouts and was tagged with the loss.
The 30-year-old did nothing on the night to endear himself to fans, as his poor throw to first base resulted in France’s injury. Ultimately, as much as it made sense to start Weaver, it couldn’t have gone much worse.
In this respect, the bullpen deserves major credit for keeping the Mariners in the game. Isaiah Campbell, Matt Brash, Trent Thornton and Tayler Saucedo combined to pitch 5.1 scoreless innings on the night.
Mariners bats can’t get going
Unfortunately for the Mariners it didn’t matter, on a night where their lineup struggled – entirely understandable given the aforementioned absences. They managed just four hits in total.
And yet the Mariners still had their opportunities, thanks to six walks and a hit by pitch. However, they went 0-for-6 with runners in scoring position.
The Mariners’ biggest missed opportunity came in the fourth inning when they loaded the bases, albeit with two outs. Ultimately though they could only produce the one run, courtesy of a walk.
Servais was his usual balanced self, when discussing the 3-1 loss. He said:
“Stuff happens. We play so many games. We’ve been on such a hot streak, where everything kind of has gone our way. So (there’s) going to be a little bump in the road, a little adversity.”
With the defeat, the Mariners fall back into a tie with the Rangers, at 75-57. The Rangers have the advantage due to their 5-1 record head-to-head, although the two teams still have seven more games to play in 2023.
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How soon will J-Rod return?
Of course, the main issue relates to the team’s latest injuries. In respect of France, his X-rays came back negative for any fractures and he should be able to return within a couple of days.
However, while it’s nothing serious, it’s less clear right now with how long Rodríguez will be out. Servais said:
“There’s no replacement for Julio, and certainly not with how he’s playing right now. But you’re hoping guys find a way to get on base, create traffic and then you get a big hit.”
Cade Marlowe will replace Rodríguez’s in center field for Wednesday afternoon’s series finale. Bryce Miller will take the ball, as the Mariners aim for their five consecutive series win and 11 out of 12.
Any concern after the loss on Tuesday night? Or just one of those days for the Mariners, on the way to securing a second consecutive playoff appearance. Let us know in the comments section below.