In this recent run of baseball that has improbably vaulted the Mariners into the conversation for the expanded postseason in 2020, well, at least for now, the key has been the effort of the starting rotation that produced 10 quality starts — six-plus innings and three runs or fewer allowed — in the last 16 games, including the last six games, which were all wins.
And the useful byproduct of that starting pitching success is the avoidance of excessive or extended use of the worst bullpen in baseball.
But that run of quality starts ended Tuesday night with one out in the second inning with starting pitcher Ljay Newsome walking off the field with his right hand throbbing in pain. The early exit meant Seattle’s unpredictable collection of relievers, who were handed a four-run lead, needed to cover at least eight innings to get a victory.
Predictably, they couldn’t do it in what would later be a 6-5 loss to the San Francisco Giants.
“A lot of those guys haven’t been in because our starting pitching has been going so deep,” manager Scott Servais said in a postgame video conference. “There’s going to be nights like tonight where those guys have to step up.”
The Mariners saw their six-game losing streak, the longest of their season end, on a night when they could have narrowed the gap in their unexpected quest for a postseason spot with the Yankees losing and the Astros splitting a doubleheader in Oakland.
Seattle, now 19-23, now sits 2 1/2 games behind the Astros (21-20) for second place in the American League West and 2 1/2 games behind the Yankees for the final wild card spot.
What’s frustrating for Seattle is that one of their better relievers that gave up the go-ahead run.
Left-hander Anthony Misiewicz, who had been one of the Mariners more effective relievers this season, gave up a solo homer to pinch-hitter Darin Ruf in the seventh inning to break a 5-5 tie. A misplaced curveball allowed Ruf to hit a deep fly ball to left-center that was aided by the Bay Area wind and carried over the fence.
“Miz has had outstanding year for us,” Servais said. “He got it in his hot zone. I didn’t think Ruf actually got enough to get it out, but with the conditions here tonight, the wind was kind of blowing across and it helped it.”
But really, the game was likely lost when Newsome’s 90-mph fastball to Brandon Crawford was sent back at him in the form of a 100-mph line drive off the bat. With no chance to get out of the way, let alone catch it, the ball struck Newsome squarely in his right hand – his pitching hand – and shot into the air and was gloved by Kyle Seager.
So while it was an out for Newsome, it also meant that he was out of the game. Senior athletic trainer Rob Nodine checked on Newsome, who was in noticeable discomfort. The conversation was brief and Newsome exited the game. The Mariners later announced that X-rays on the hand showed no fractures. He is considered day to day.
The Mariners had staked Newsome to a 4-1 lead thank largely J.P. Crawford’s bases-loaded double down the left-field line in the top of the second of Giants starter Logan Webb. But his replacement, right-handed long reliever Brady Lail, who recorded the final two outs of the inning, struggled in his first action since Aug. 28.
Even after Jose Marmolejos pushed the lead to 5-1 with a RBI single in the top of the third, Lail couldn’t make it hold up.
He gave up a pair of runs in the third inning and served up a towering two-run homer to Mauricio Dubon, the Giants’ No. 9 hitter, in the fourth inning that tied the score at 5-5.
I thought Brady Lail competed very well. He was one pitch away from maybe getting through the fourth inning and that was going to be his last inning before we went to some of the short-relief guys. But he wasn’t able to quite get through it.”