Despite Narvaez’s career-best day, Mariners can’t climb out of first-inning hole against A’s

Mariners manager Servais on Narvaez’s career day, disappointing 7-4 loss to A’s

Despite a career day offensively from catcher Omar Narvaez, the Mariners stumble into the All-Star break with a 7-4 loss to Oakland at T-Mobile Park. Opener Matt Carasiti allowed four earned runs in the first inning before Wade LeBlanc took over.
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Despite a career day offensively from catcher Omar Narvaez, the Mariners stumble into the All-Star break with a 7-4 loss to Oakland at T-Mobile Park. Opener Matt Carasiti allowed four earned runs in the first inning before Wade LeBlanc took over.

The opener approach had been much more effective in the two weeks since the Seattle Mariners brought new acquisition Matt Carasiti up from Triple-A Tacoma. Across his first four outings in the role, he allowed just one run before handing the ball over to either Wade LeBlanc or Tommy Milone, and the two veteran left-handers have pitched well behind him.

But, as it has with so many others in the bullpen this season, the first-inning experiment the Mariners have use since early June eventually burned Carasiti, too.

Carasiti allowed five runs (four earned) in the first inning Sunday afternoon and recorded just one out before LeBlanc replaced him. Seattle never recovered despite a career day offensively from Omar Narvaez, and stumbled into the All-Star break with a 7-4 loss to the A’s at T-Mobile Park.

Knowing this would be a rebuilding season with a lot of roster movement, the Mariners (39-55) have preached incremental progress from the outset, and they have made some. The starting rotation has made strides, the ever-evolving bullpen has produced a few reliable relievers, and the defense as a whole has been cleaner as the season has gone on.

In their final game before the midsummer breather, the Mariners slipped into some of the behaviors that cost them so many games earlier on. And it started with another deflating first-inning deficit.

“It’s nice when you go out there and throw up a zero early,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said. “We’ve had struggles doing that. It has helped the bulk guys. There’s no question it’s helped them. I think their numbers dictate that as well. They’re able to get deep in ballgames, and keep us right in the game, but it’s tough when you get behind the 8-ball right away. It’s something that we’ll continue to look at as we go into the second half of the season. Today, you get down five early, our guys didn’t quit, but it’s tough to battle back.

“We really haven’t been in one of those games for a while. We played a lot of those games in May. We haven’t played one of those in quite a while. I give our guys credit. We put pressure on them, we had some chances.”

Oakland’s Marcus Semien opened the game with an infield single, Carasiti walked Robbie Grossman, and Matt Olson wasted no time breaking the game open, crushing a three-run homer to right center. Carasiti, who was charged with the loss, struck out Khris Davis, before allowing a double to Mark Canha, and a single to Ramon Laureano.

LeBlanc then entered the game two outs earlier than planned, and Chad Pinder hit the first pitch he saw, singling to left. Instead of one run on the play, the A’s got two. Pinder’s hit bounced off Dylan Moore’s glove in left, rolled to the wall, and Laureano charged in behind Canha to give Oakland a 5-0 lead.

“Carasiti has been doing a great job for us going out there and attacking the strike zone,” Servais said. “If you go through that whole inning, his stuff was fine, it was the walk. Somewhere in the middle there’s always a walk. You have to stay aggressive. And that led into the Olson three-run homer, and he really couldn’t stop it after that. He’s been pretty good in that role. Today was not his day.”

Through the next six frames, LeBlanc limited the damage, allowing just one more A’s run on a Semien solo homer that led off the second. He recorded one of his more efficient outings of the season, giving up three hits while walking two and striking out two in 6 2/3 innings.

“I thought Wade threw the ball really well, did what Wade does and kept them off-balance,” Servais said.

LeBlanc has appeared behind an opener six times since June, posting a 2.97 ERA in 39 1/3 innings, and has allowed just four earned runs across his past four outings. He said the oblique injury early on hindered his first half production, but said he’s found a rhythm in the outings leading up to the All-Star break.

“It probably hasn’t been as sharp as I had hoped the first half would have been with the injury and all that stuff, but it seems to be looking up the last four or five outings, so I’ll try to keep that rolling,” LeBlanc said.

The Mariners chipped away at Oakland’s lead led by Narvaez, who closed a first half that was worthy of All-Star consideration by going 4-for-4 with two homers and all four of Seattle’s RBIs.

“Omar can really hit,” Servais said. “He’s certainly earned everybody’s respect in the batter’s box there. ... Really good first half by him. We’ve seen more power than we were expecting, so there’s a lot of positives there offensively for Omar.”

Narvaez’s two solo blasts in the second and eighth innings pushed his season total to 14, and he drove in two more runs on singles. It was the first four-hit game of his career, and first multi-homer game of his career.

“I was trying to keep it simple, hit the ball, and everything happened from there,” Narvaez said. “Mentally, I wanted to finish strong. ... I’m pretty happy with what I’ve been doing. I’ve been hitting for power, I’ve been hitting for average, and it’s tough to do.”

In the fourth, he drove in Domingo Santana, who doubled as part of an active eight-game hitting streak, and in the fifth he drove in J.P. Crawford, who also doubled.

The Mariners combined for 10 hits in the game, but never strung together more than three in an inning, and stranded five runners — including three in scoring position.

Seattle got its first look at reliever Matt Wisler, who became the 35th pitcher to appear for the Mariners this season when he came on in relief in the eighth. He tossed a competitive inning apart from allowing a solo homer to Laureano that appeared to drop in foul territory in left, but was upheld on video review, and gave the A’s a four-run lead.

As the Mariners head into the break, Servais said he wants to see Seattle’s recent progress continue into the second half, despite the club being far out of playoff contention.

“We’re in a different situation right now than we have been in the past,” Servais said. “I like the way that we have been grinding and playing over the past three or four weeks. It’s been pretty consistent.

“There are still some areas we’ve got to tighten up at times … but I cannot fault this group’s effort or work ethic, that’s for sure.”

Lauren Smith covers the Seattle Mariners for The News Tribune. She previously covered high school sports at TNT and The Olympian, beginning in 2015. She is a graduate of the University of Washington and Emerald Ridge High School.