Traction remains maddening elusive for the Seattle Mariners as the All-Star break approaches.
A pulsating walk-off victory Tuesday night in 11 innings produced no follow-up momentum Wednesday afternoon in a 5-4 loss to the Detroit Tigers at Safeco Field.
The biggest bugaboo was all-too-familiar: The Mariners were hitless in 14 at-bats with runners in scoring position. Yep, squat-for-14 with RISP in a one-run loss.
So here they sit, still spinning their wheels at 39-46, with just a four-game series against American League West-rival Los Angeles before the four-game break arrives.
The Tigers and Mariners combined for 14 homers over the three-game series, which matched a Safeco Field record. Detroit had nine of them, but the winning run Wednesday scored on a sacrifice fly.
It was 4-4 in the seventh inning when rookie Mayckol Guaipe, after a scoreless sixth, gave up one-out singles to Yoenis Cespedes and and Victor Martinez before loading the bases by hitting J.D. Martinez.
Nick Castellanos sent a fly to center that was deep enough to score Cespedes with the go-ahead run, but Martinez was thrown out in trying to advance to third.
The run counted because Cespedes crossed the plate before the third out.
That was the difference.
Detroit starter Anibal Sanchez (8-7) exited after a one-out walk to Nelson Cruz in the seventh on his 113th pitch. Blaine Hardy struck out pinch hitter Franklin Gutierrez before the Tigers went to their bullpen again.
Al Albuquerque gave up a single to Mark Trumbo that moved Cruz to second but retired Dustin Ackley on a fly to left. Albuquerque worked through the eighth before Joakim Soria closed out the victory.
The Mariners didn’t go quietly. Soria issued a pair of two-out walks before retiring Trumbo on a strikeout.
Guaipe (0-2) was the loser for the second time in three days.
The Mariners had just pulled even at 4-4 on Ackley’s two-run homer in the fourth when lefty starter J.A. Happ started the fifth inning by walking Victor Martinez and J.D. Martinez.
That finished Happ, who labored through 103 pitches in four-plus innings.
Mark Lowe squelched the threat by striking out Castellanos and getting James McCann to ground into a double play.
McCann actually beat the throw, but umpire Joe West ruled J.D. Martinez’s slide at second was outside of the baseline. Replays suggested Martinez was likely within reach of second base on the slide.
Neither club was sharp early.
The Mariners had a gift-wrapped chance in the first inning, when Tigers center fielder Rajai Davis turned Robinson Cano’s lazy two-out fly into a single, and shortstop Jose Iglesias then booted Cruz’s routine grounder.
They couldn’t cash in; Seth Smith popped out.
Then it was the Mariners’ turn for defensive bungling — and, in contrast, the Tigers took full advantage..
J.D. Martinez led off the second inning with a single to left and went to second on a pitch that got past backup catcher Jesus Sucre for a sloppy passed ball.
Castellanos grounded a single through the left side, and third-base coach Dave Clark didn’t hesitate to wave home Martinez, who scored easily ahead of a weak throw from Ackley.
When third baseman Kyle Seager chose not the cut the throw, Castellanos took second. Jefry Marte then collected his first major league hit and first big league RBI by slicing a double past first baseman Trumbo.
Marte took third on a wild pitch that Sucre probably should have blocked before Iglesias pumped an RBI double into the right-center field gap for a 3-0 lead.
The Tigers also had 3-0 leads in both previous games and, each time, the Mariners came back to grab 5-3 leads. Detroit answered Monday for a 12-5 victory, but the Mariners gained a 7-6 victory Tuesday in 11 innings.
On cue, the Mariners began clawing their way back.
Trumbo’s leadoff double in the second turned into a run on a two-out error by Marte at first base. Seager came around after a leadoff double in the third on grounders by Cano and Cruz.
Marte atoned for his run-scoring error with a one-out homer in the fourth, but the Mariners pulled even later in the inning on Ackley’s two-run homer after Trumbo’s leadoff single.