DETROIT — It’s tempting fate to suggest things can’t get worse, but it’s safe to say the Mariners have reached the "what can go wrong next?" phase of their ongoing June swoon.
The Mariners closed a miserable 10-game trip Thursday afternoon with a 5-4 loss in 10 innings to Detroit in which they lost their starting pitcher, Adrian Sampson, before he officially became their starting pitcher.
That’s not all. Far from it.
The Mariners fell into a 4-1 hole but battled back and pulled even. They hit four homers, including two by Nelson Cruz, before again finding heartbreak.
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And what heartbreak.
Steve Cishek (2-4) threw a bases-loaded wild pitch with two outs in the 10th inning that scored pinch-runner Cameron Maybin from third base. Cishek pulled a two-seam fastball that ran away from catcher Chris Iannetta.
"It’s embarrassing to give it away like that," Cishek said, "and not make them put it in play."
Steven Moya started the winning rally by working back from an 0-2 count for a one-out walk. Detroit then went to its bench for Maybin as a pinch-runner before sending up Victor Martinez to bat for James McCann.
Martinez delivered a single to left — but it got worse.
Seth Smith threw the ball to third base but Kyle Seager, who was overshifted in the defensive alignment against Martinez, wasn’t in position to make a catch.
"Smitty threw the ball in and didn’t hit the cut-off man," manager Scott Servais said. "Obviously, they were not taking the base. Hit the cut-off man, and we’re in good shape. But, obviously, that didn’t happen."
Smith’s error put runners at second and third with one out. An intentional walk to Mike Aviles loaded the bases with one out. Cishek had a chance to escape after striking out Andrew Romine before disaster struck.
Cishek was in his second inning. The Mariners had emptied their bullpen at that point except for Mike Montgomery, who pitched 3 1/3 innings in Wednesday night’s 5-1 loss.
Nathan Karns was warming up. He pitched five innings in Monday’s 8-7 walk-off loss to the Tigers in 12 innings.
The numbing end for the Mariners followed a crushing wasted opportunity in the top of the 10th inning.
Shawn O’Malley led with a single to left against Kyle Ryan, who then made a two-base throwing error on a pick-off play. That put the go-ahead run on third with no outs.
The Mariners couldn’t cash the opportunity with the top of their lineup.
O’Malley had to hold on Ketel Marte’s weak grounder to third but tried to score on Smith’s routine grounder to second. The Tigers trapped O’Malley in a rundown for an easy out.
"I was running (on contact)," O’Malley said, "and I saw they made a good throw home. Instead of running it out, I tried to get in a rundown. Hopefully, something would happen or Seth could advance.
"But I didn’t get to stay in it long enough."
Ryan (3-2) ended the inning by striking out Robinson Cano.
The loss punctuated a 2-8 trip for the Mariners that included a four-game sweep by the Tigers at Comerica Park. They have lost six in a row in dropping under .500 at 36-37. And they are 6-16 in June.
It’s been a spitshow much of the time.
"This was definitely a tough one," third baseman Kyle Seager said, "and . that’s kind of the way it’s been going lately. You just ride this out, and try to turn it around as soon as we can."
Sampson experienced discomfort in his elbow when warming up prior to the bottom of the first inning. He departed without delivering a pitch, which meant, officially, he wasn’t the starting pitcher.
"I don’t know exactly what it was," Sampson said, "but it just didn’t feel right. I felt the best for my health was that I should come out of the game."
Vidal Nuno replaced Sampson and threw 68 pitches before exiting with one out in the fourth after McCann’s two-run homer boosted Detroit’s lead to 4-1.
The Mariners came all the way back.
They got one-out homers on successive pitches by Iannetta and Leonys Martin in the fifth inning against Detroit starter Daniel Norris.
Nelson Cruz’s second homer tied the game in the sixth against reliever Bruce Rondon. It stayed tied until the 10th. The disastrous 10th.
"Again, the quality of at-bat with a guy on third, a runner in scoring position…it hasn’t been good," Servais said. "We’ve got to get better. We’re not going to win many game unless we do. It’s hard to hit homers every day.
"We hit a bunch of them today. Not enough."
PLAY OF THE GAME: First baseman Dae-Ho Lee turned Andrew Romine’s one-out line drive into an inning-ending double play in the second.
The Tigers had already scored twice and had runners at first and third when Romine sliced a liner up the first-base line. Lee caught it and stepped on first to double-up the runner.
PLUS: Nelson Cruz responded to a day off Wednesday by snapping out of his 3-for-28 slump by hitting two homers…with Robinson Cano serving as the designated hitter, Shawn O’Malley started at second base and got two of the Mariners’ eight hits…reliever Tom Wilhelmsen marked his return to the Mariners by pitching a scoreless sixth inning…reliever Joaquin Benoit struck out the side in the eighth inning.
MINUS: A rough day for left fielder Seth Smith. He hit a weak one-out grounder to second with the go-ahead run at second in the top of the 10th inning and then made an errant throw in the bottom of the inning that led to the winning run…Vidal Nuno got a late summons to replace Adrian Sampson as the starting pitcher, but he put the Mariners in a hole by allowing four runs in 3 1/3 innings.
STAT PACK: As per MLB scoring rules, right-hander Adrian Sampson is credited as having started the game but, since he exited without throwing a pitch, lefty Vidal Nuno is credited as being the starting pitcher.
QUOTABLE: Asked whether he and the Mariners feel snake-bitten, closer Steve Cishek said: "You’ve got to be careful. You don’t want to get to the point where it’s a `here we go again’ mentality. I don’t think we have.
"We’re right there in those ballgames. Today, we were right there. It’s just tough losing close game like this day after day."
SHORT HOPS: Nelson Cruz has 19 multi-homer games in his career, including two this season. He also hit two on June 7 in a 7-1 victory over Cleveland at Safeco Field…Leonys Martin hit his 11th homer. He never hit more than eight in his five years in Texas.
Bob Dutton: @TNT_Mariners