SEATTLE — The calendar suggests the Seattle Mariners likely were overdue for a clunker like the one they turned in Saturday night in a 5-0 loss to the Cleveland Indians at Safeco Field.
The last time the Mariners lost by five or more runs was May 24 in a 9-4 loss to the Houston Astros. That was five weeks ago.
That didn’t make it any easier to take.
Cleveland right-hander Josh Tomlin (5-5) carried a perfect game into the fifth, gave up a clean single to Kyle Seager and then closed out his shutout by retiring the final 15 in a row.
Tomlin struck out a career-high 11 and didn’t walk anyone in an 111-pitch outing. And he was every bit as dominating as that reads.
In contrast, Mariners starter Roenis Elias (7-6) stumbled from the gate in a two-run first inning, then steadied before giving up two runs in the fifth and one more in the sixth. He allowed just six hits, but they came in bunches.
Want a positive?
Brandon Maurer turned in a second successive overpowering relief outing since his return Wednesday from Triple-A Tacoma. He struck out two in a 1-2-3 eighth.
That was about it, though.
The Mariners reached the midpoint of their season at 43-38, an improvement of eight games over 2013. Also, if the season had ended Saturday, they would have qualified for the postseason as a wild-card team.
None of that was evident against Tomlin.
The Mariners didn’t get a base runner, let alone a hit, until Seager started the fifth inning with a clean single to left.
He reached third on a wild pitch and a throwing error but got no farther.
Elias surrendered a one-out double in the first inning to Asdrubal Cabrera that hopped just fair past third base. That bounce turned out to be an omen, and that double turned into a run when Michael Brantley singled to left.
Dustin Ackley’s throw to the plate was well up the line and over the head of the cutoff man, which permitted Brantley to take second.
That probably didn’t matter; Brantley probably would have scored from first on Carlos Santana’s RBI double into the left-center gap.
Elias then walked Jason Kipnis before avoiding further damage with a double play.
Elias didn’t allow another hit until Mike Aviles’ one-out single in the fifth. That turned into a run when Aviles, breaking on a 3-2 pitch, scored on Michael Bourn’s double into the right-center gap.
The Indians led, 3-0.
A balk moved Bourn to third and turned into the fourth run when Cabrera sent a sacrifice fly to deep left.
The Indians extended their lead to 5-0 on Yan Gomes’ two-out homer in the sixth just after catcher Mike Zunino failed to corral a pop at the Mariners’ dugout rail. Zunino got his glove to the ball but couldn’t pull it in.
At that point, the Mariners still didn’t have a hit. That came later in the inning, thanks to Seager. It was all they got.
Morrison settles in
Logan Morrison is putting the Seattle Mariners in a pleasantly tough position whenever club officials deem Justin Smoak and Corey Hart ready to return from the disabled list.
Saturday’s game against the Cleveland Indians marked Morrison’s 17th consecutive start at first base since returning from the disabled list. From all signs, he is tightening his grip on the position.
“I do (feel like it’s coming),” said Morrison, who missed almost two months because of a strained left hamstring. “I went from hitting one ball hard a game to hitting two balls hard a game.
“They were still finding gloves for a while, but hopefully we can get some more grass.”
Morrison has bumped his average from .150 to .240 since his return and entered Saturday on an 8-for-14 burst over the previous four games. He also is providing some much-needed thump, with four homers in his past 15 games.
“He’s done a nice job,” manager Lloyd McClendon said, “and he’s swinging the bat extremely well. He’s been an important part of our offense.
“As we move forward, we’ll continue to evaluate and see what makes us better. If you’re asking me for an answer of whether he’s going to play first base over Justin Smoak or Corey Hart, I don’t have that answer right now.”
Smoak and Hart are on rehabilitation assignments at Triple-A Tacoma. Smoak is recovering from a strained left quadriceps, while Hart hasn’t played since May 18 because of a strained left hamstring.
“They’re getting better,” McClendon said. “They’re both getting anxious. They’ve been texting me. We’ll see.”
The clock is ticking.
Rehab assignments are limited to 20 days for nonpitchers. Smoak started his assignment June 18, and Hart began his June 21. One big difference: Smoak has an option remaining and can be sent to the minors after his 20-day session.
While all signs point to the Mariners recalling right-hander Taijuan Walker to start Monday’s game at Houston, McClendon reiterated he’s not yet ready to confirm any decision.
Walker pitched a complete-game shutout in his last start for Tacoma and would be ready to start Monday on his normal rest schedule.
Generally regarded as the organization’s top prospect before the season, Walker experienced shoulder soreness shortly after arriving in February for spring training. A recurrence in April further delayed his return.
A roster move before Monday’s game seems certain because the Mariners are carrying just four starting pitchers after Wednesday’s decision to option Erasmo Ramirez to Tacoma.
All right in left
Through Friday, left fielder Dustin Ackley had saved seven runs in June with his defensive play, according to stats compiled by ESPN. That tied for the second-highest total in the the majors this month.
Surprised? So is Ackley, who responded: “Really? I’ll take it.”
Ackley’s defense helps ease his disappointing bat: a 13-for-83 slide over the past 25 games brought him into Saturday with a .220 average.
“It’s bad,” McClendon said. “He’s grinding. He’s trying. Actually, he’s putting together some pretty good at-bats. He’s just not having positive results. He’ll continue to work, and hopefully he’ll come out of it.
“The thing where it hasn’t hurt us is we’ve been winning. Listen, we need him to be successful out there. We need him to be productive.”
As for Ackley’s defense?
“I think he’s done a 100 percent turnaround,” McClendon said, “and I mean from what I saw in spring training. He was rough around the edges. Now, he looks the part.”
The same ESPN metric showed Mariners third baseman Kyle Seager at plus-5 for the month. The June leader through Friday was Kansas City outfielder Jarrod Dyson at plus-8.
Three other outfielders matched Ackley at plus-7: Kansas City’s Alex Gordon, Cincinnati’s Billy Hamilton and Atlanta’s Jason Heyward.
Politicking for Felix
The All-Star Game is a little more than two weeks away, and McClendon has some advice for Boston Red Sox manager John Farrell, who will run the American League squad for the July 15 game in Minneapolis.
It concerns right-hander Felix Hernandez.
“He should start the All-Star Game,” McClendon said. “If they want to win, he should start.”
Hernandez starts Sunday’s series finale against the Indians. If the Mariners roll five starters over the next two weeks, Hernandez would be positioned to start the All-Star Game on his regular schedule.
McClendon also is pushing for Seager and closer Fernando Rodney as possible selections. Second baseman Robinson Cano had a big lead in fan voting to determine the starters in the last balloting update.
Endy Chavez served Saturday as the starting designated hitter for just the third time in his 13-year career. All three times have been this month. … Left-hander James Paxton reported no day-after problems after his 25-pitch bullpen workout Friday. He’s recovering from a strained back muscle. … Brad Miller entered Saturday on a .313 surge (26-for-83) with an .864 on-base plus slugging in 26 games since May 29. … Through Friday, Seager had 53 RBIs in 56 games since April 23. The only players with more since that date were Toronto’s Edwin Encarnacion (57) and Detroit’s Miguel Cabrera (54).
The Mariners figured to pass the 1 million count in attendance Saturday for the 30th consecutive year. They entered the night at 980,500 for 41 home dates.
The last time they failed to reach 1 million was 1984, when they drew 870,372 at the Kingdome for a 74-88 club. They finished last season at 1,761,661.
The Mariners’ average of 23,915 through Friday puts them on pace to finish with 1,937,115. That would be their best season attendance since drawing 2,085,630 in 2010.
It was four years ago Sunday – June 29, 2010 – that Cliff Lee beat the Yankees, 7-4, in New York and became the first Mariners pitcher to pitch three consecutive complete games since Randy Johnson in July 1998.
The Mariners and Indians complete their three-game series at 1:10 p.m. Sunday at Safeco Field. Hernandez (9-2, 2.24 ERA) will face Cleveland left-hander T.J. House (0-1, 4.88).
Root Sports will carry the game.
The Mariners open a three-game series Monday at Houston. After an open date Thursday, they play three weekend games against the White Sox in Chicago before returning home.