DETROIT — The soft spot in the Mariners’ bullpen — a tendency to give up home runs — isn’t a surprise. Club officials knew what they were getting when they revamped their reliever corps in the off-season.
"We are not a ground-ball staff," manager Scott Servais said. "That’s why some of them were available. Everybody wants the strikeout/ground ball guy. They’re not always available. Sometimes you get the strikeout/fly ball guy.
"That’s kind of how we’re built."
Right now, those fly balls are killing the Mariners.
They lost 8-7 to Detroit in 13 innings Monday when Vidal Nuno gave up a walk-off homer to Justin Upton. Earlier, Nick Vincent surrendered a one-run lead by giving up a two-run homer to Upton.
In Sunday’s 2-1 loss at Boston, it was rookie Edwin Diaz who allowed a homer to Mookie Betts in the seventh inning. The current road trip started June 14 when a three-run lead at Tampa Bay slipped away when Vincent gave up a tying homer.
"The one thing we’ve have done," general manager Jerry Dipoto said, "is we have blown leads. As good as they’ve been (overall), we’ve blown leads. And those are painful, and they stick with you. But you trust the group."
That group, overall, entered Tuesday with a 3.20 ERA that ranked third among American League bullpens. Further, the Mariners’s relief corps has surrendered 28 homers. Not great but not awful. Five AL teams have allowed more.
But they’ve often come at momentum-swinging times. Seventeen of those 28 homers either surrendered a lead, broke a tie or contributed directly to blowing a lead in an eventual loss.
"It seems like we’ve given up a few more (than expected)," Servais said. "Especially lately and in bigger spots. They’re coming at tough spots where it’s tough to absorb. They are bigger when they’re late in the game like that."
Here’s the breakdown:
***Closer Steve Cishek (who has a 2.56 ERA): five homers in 31 2/3 innings. One came in a tie game and became the winning run; two more turned leads into tie games; another surrendered a lead in a loss.
***Vincent (3.24): five homers in 33 1/3 innings. One broke a tie in a loss, one turned a lead into a deficit and two turned leads into deficits.
***Joaquin Benoit (3.78): three homers in 16 2/3 innings. One turned a two-run lead into a tie, and another turned a tie into a three-run deficit.
***Nuno (1.95): three homers in 27 2/3 innings. He gave up Monday’s walk-off blast Monday to Upton.
***Mike Montgomery (2.72): one homer in 39 2/3 innings, but that one homer was a tie-breaking blast June 11 in the 11th inning by Texas’ Rougned Odor.
***Diaz (2.35): one homer in 7 2/3 innings, but it was a tie-breaking blast Sunday by Betts in the seventh inning at Boston.
***Joel Peralta (5.40): seven homers in 23 1/3 innings before he was designated June 2 for assignment. Two turned one-run leads into ties, three others fueled opposition comebacks that turned into losses.
***Steve Johnson (4.32) three homers in 16 2/3 innings before he was designated June 17 for assignment. None of them came with the game on the line.
"A lot of the pitches haven’t been great pitches," Servais said. "They’ve been up. And they get squared up. With our bullpen, we do strike them out, but it’s more of a fly-ball-type staff that we have down there.
"Once in a while, the fly balls are going to carry out."
While the Mariners ruled out right-hander Taijuan Walker from Friday’s start against St. Louis, they believe he can avoid a trip to the disabled list. He is expected to rejoin the rotation by early next week.
Walker underwent an examination Tuesday in Seattle to determine how to treat the posterior tibial tendinitis — inflammation in the tendon that attaches the calf muscle to the bones on the inside of the right foot.
The problem is aggravated in the arch of his foot when Walker pushes off the rubber while delivering a pitch. It forced him to make early exits in each of his last two starts.
ALTERNATIVES TO WALKER
If the rotation responds this week with some deep starts, Servais appears willing to consider a "bullpen day" to replace Walker in Friday’s start against the Cardinals.
"That would be great," Servais said, "if we had the bullpen available to do a bullpen day. With the way our starting pitching has gone here, it’s really hard to create that day."
The Mariners entered Tuesday with a streak of three straight games in which their starting pitcher failed to pitch beyond five innings. Only twice in the previous eight games had a starter recorded an out in the sixth innings.
"You’d feel better if you had multiple, or at least back-to-back, deeper outings by your rotation," Servais said. "It does afford you the opportunity to do that. I don’t have an issue with bullpen days. I’ve seen it work.
"I don’t want to make a habit of it. But in a pinch, it can work."
Montgomery and Nuno are former starting pitchers. Diaz opened this season as a starter at Double-A Jackson before shifting in May to the bullpen to accelerate his path to the big leagues.
Barring a bullpen day, the Mariners will need to find a starter.
They appear unwilling to recall just-acquired Zach Lee from Triple-A Tacoma, but any other in-house move would require a corresponding space-clearing move on the 40-man roster.
Second baseman Robinson Cano remains second in the latest All-Star update, but he now trails Houston’s Jose Altuve by more than 600,000 with less than 10 days remaining in the online fan balloting.
Altuve increased his lead over Cano by more than 140,000 votes in the last week.
Nelson Cruz’s two-year run as the American League’s starting designated hitter is also all but over. He slipped back to fifth place in the latest update and now trails Boston’s David Ortiz, the leader, by nearly two million votes.
No other Mariners are listed among the leaders at their positions. MLB only releases vote totals for the top 15 outfielders, and the top five recipients at all other positions.
Third baseman Joe Rizzo marked his professional debut Monday night by hitting a three-run homer in Peoria’s 9-6 victory over the Padres in the Arizona Rookie League.
Rizzo, 18, was the Mariners’ second-round pick earlier this month in the MLB Draft. A $1.75 million bonus lured him away from a college commitment to South Carolina. The MLB-assigned slot value for Rizzo, as the 50th pick, was $1,252,100.
Hi-A Bakersfield first baseman Kyle Petty won the Midway Challenge — a Home Run Derby between players from the California League and Carolina League — held Monday on the deck of the USS Midway in San Diego.
The event was held in conjunction with the annual all-star game between the two leagues, which took place Tuesday in Lake Elsinore, Calif.
Petty hit 22 balls from the ship’s deck into the Pacific Ocean.
"There's not really many chances you get to hit a baseball and watch it disappear into the ocean,," he told MLB.com. "So you just want to embrace it and take it all in. Probably the coolest and one of the more fun things I’ve ever gotten to do."
Petty, 26, was a 23-round selection in 2013 and is batting .327 for the Blaze with 10 homers and 43 RBIs in 66 games.
It was 22 years ago Wednesday — June 22, 1994 — that Ken Griffey Jr. hit his 31st homer and broke Babe Ruth’s record for homers through June. Ruth hit 30 in 1928 and 1930.
Griffey’s home came in the sixth inning against lefty Brian Anderson in the sixth inning of 12-3 victory at California. Griffey finished the month with 32, but the August labor stoppage halted his run at the season record. He finished with 40.
The Mariners and Tigers continue their four-game series at 4:08 p.m. Pacific time Wednesday at Comerica Park in Detroit.
Right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma (6-5 with a 4.18 ERA) will face Detroit right-hander Michael Fulmer (7-2, 2.43). The game can be seen on Root Sports Northwest and heard on 710 ESPN.
Bob Dutton: @TNT_Mariners