BOSTON – At least the Mariners won’t have to come back to Boston for a makeup game in September.
But there were few other positives for the team Sunday as a disastrous trip concluded with an 11-2 loss and three-game sweep to the Red Sox.
It was a fourth straight loss for the Mariners as they finished the 10-game trip with just two wins and fell to 20-23 on the season. The memorable 13-2 start has been overshadowed by a 7-21 stretch since then.
How bad was the series? The Red Sox outscored the Mariners 34-8. The games were competitive for only a handful of innings.
After watching the first two games of the series on his phone while attending his daughter’s college graduation from Ole Miss, manager Scott Servais got to suffer through Sunday’s game in person.
With rain failing from first pitch to the final out at varying levels from light drizzle to steady drops, the two teams slogged through 8 1/2 innings in sloppy conditions that might’ve led to a postponement or delayed start in the first days of the series. But on a getaway day finale, they pushed through the rain, safety and clean play be damned.
The decision to play the game and start it at 1:10 p.m. despite the rain falling was made by Major League Baseball in New York. Neither team was expecting to start on time, but MLB makes the call over the teams and umpires.
“Both teams had to play in some miserable conditions out there today,” Servais said. “It was not a good series for us. It was a rough road trip. We have to get back home and regroup and go from there. But it was nasty, nasty conditions out there.”
For the three games at Fenway Park, the Red Sox hitters turned nearly every at-bat into a pitch-filled battle where surrender was not an option. It was the same thing the Mariners hitters did to opposing pitchers early in the season. Now Seattle’s pitchers got to endure that struggle to get outs while keeping their pitch counts down.
“They’re good, we’ve done that to teams too,” Servais said. “Right now, they are laying off pitches, they are tough to strike out, they have a good team with a good offense and we aren’t finishing off at-bats or innings right now. We’ve walked a lot of people. You’ve got to get aggressive with these guys and make them put it in play early.”
Marco Gonzales, one of the Mariners’ most efficient strike throwers, couldn’t combat the Red Sox approach, which was aided by the rigidly tight strike zone of home-plate umpire Quinn Wolcott, who wasn’t calling strikes even an inch out of the zone. Usually Gonzales will get an umpire to expand the zone with his consistency. But it wasn’t there.
“He was strict glove side into righties,” Gonzales said. “He gave us a little bit of grace on the outside of the plate. We tried to use it. But I didn’t have enough to use both sides of the plate to use it to our advantage.”
Throw in the now-expected but still shameful Mariners’ defense to prolong innings and you arrive at a four-inning, 95-pitch start for Gonzales in which he allowed four runs (two earned) on four hits with three walks and three strikeouts to take the loss.
“I wasn’t as crisp, and I was a little up in the zone, and I gave them some chances to make some contact in situations where I felt they shouldn’t,” he said. “I also didn’t have a good curveball, which is another weapon I felt wasn’t available.”
The Mariners gave Gonzales a 1-0 lead before he threw his first pitch. Mitch Haniger drew a leadoff walk, advanced to third on J.P. Crawford’s double off the green monster and scored on Edwin Encarnacion’s sacrifice fly.
It was a sign of things to come when it took Gonzales eight pitches to strike out Andrew Benintendi and nine pitches to get Mookie Betts to ground out for his first two outs. He wouldn’t get that third out until 23 pitches later.
J.D. Martinez smashed a solo homer to tie the score at 1-1. Gonzales walked Xander Bogaerts and gave up a soft single to Rafael Devers to put runners on the corners. He appeared to have the second out when Michael Chavis hit a pop behind first base. However, Shed Long overran the pop-up and when he tried to stop and correct himself to make the catch, his spikes couldn’t grab in the saturated grass. Long slipped and fell, watching the ball land behind him for an RBI “single.”
With Michael Chavis batting, catcher Omar Narvaez made a careless attempt at a pitch inside, missing it easily for a run-scoring passed ball.
When Gonzales finally got Christian Vazquez to pop out to end the first inning, he’d thrown 40 pitches and the Mariners trailed 3-1.
The second inning was marginally better for Gonzales. He needed only 25 pitches to get through it. But with two outs, Jay Bruce got a late jump on a fly ball off the bat of Betts and then dropped it for an error, allowing Benintendi to score from first to make it 4-1.
“We didn’t make some plays or finish off innings like we have or like we need to do,” Servais said.