This is when you know things are going bad.
Even Mark Lowe, previously impregnable, is now affected by the home-run paralysis gripping the Seattle Mariners’ bullpen.
Lowe served up a two-run blast Monday night in the eighth inning to Ian Kinsler that sent the Mariners to a 5-4 loss to the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park.
It marked the third time in four games since returning from the All-Star break that a Mariners reliever permitted a game-winning homer in the late innings.
This was stunning, though, because Lowe (0-1) had been in lock-down form since arriving May 4 from Triple-A Tacoma. Afterward, he seemed to second-guess himself.
“I was trying to throw a fastball there,” he said, “but I didn’t get it up. I could have gone slider again, but I (chose) a fastball, hoping to throw it out of the zone. (Kinsler) put a good swing on it.
“I had thrown three sliders before that, and he was definitely out in front. So you can look at it and go, ‘I should have thrown another slider.’ And I could have. I could have gone either way.
“I chose to throw a fastball, and I missed my location. That’s just kind of his swing path, right where that ball was.”
The Mariners returned Friday from the break with a 4-3 loss at New York when Joe Beimel gave up a homer in the seventh inning to Alex Rodriguez on a “sinker that didn’t sink.”
On Sunday, Fernando Rodney missed location on a fastball in the eighth inning to Mark Teixeira, who responded with a homer that lifted the Yankees to a 2-1 victory.
And now Lowe, who entered the game with a 0.62 ERA in 29 appearances and had not allowed a run since June 14 at Houston.
“We had the guy in there we wanted,” Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon said. “It just didn’t work out.”
Kinsler fell behind 1-2 in the count before sending a no-doubt drive to left field. He also hit a homer in the first inning against Mariners starter J.A. Happ after entering the game with just three homers in his previous 90 games.
“(Lowe) has a good fastball, he's 96, 97, and he’s got a good slider,” Kinsler said. “He made a mistake, I got a good pitch and I was lucky enough to put enough to put a good swing on it.”
Detroit reliever Al Alburquerque (1-0) got the victory when Joakim Soria pitched a scoreless ninth for his 21st save.
The Mariners fell to 42-51, which puts them nine games under .500 for the first time since they ended the 2013 season at 71-91. They also have the worst record in the American League.
“That’s three tough losses on this road trip,” McClendon said. “By the long ball late in the ballgame. That makes them even tougher.”
Happ returned from a on-paper demotion to Single-A Bakersfield by limiting the Tigers to three runs and four hits in seven innings. He threw 87 pitches in an efficient performance beyond a two-walk hiccup in the second.
“I actually felt great coming out of the gate,” he said. “I thought I was making some pitches, but I must have been just missing in the second inning.”
Those two walks proved costly because both scored on James McCann’s double. Even so, Happ, in his first outing since July 8, handed over a 4-3 lead to Lowe to start the eighth inning.
Lowe gave up a one-out double to Jose Iglesias but was poised to get out of the inning before Kinsler homered. Before Monday, Lowe had permitted two earned runs in 29 innings.
Detroit jumped to an early lead when Kinsler’s seemingly routine one-out drive to left in the first inning somehow clawed its way over the wall for a homer.
The Mariners answered immediately against Tigers starter Alfredo Simon.
Seth Smith started the second inning with a double to center, and Mark Trumbo drew a one-out walk. Logan Morrison’s sharp hopper caromed off Simon for a single that loaded the bases.
Mike Zunino then drove a two-run double off the center field wall. The runners had to hold to see whether Rajai Davis could make a leaping catch; he came close.
Even so, Morrison admitted he should have been closer to second base, which might have enabled him to score.
“With one out, typically, you want to go halfway,” he said. “But I saw the runner in front of me (Trumbo) tag ... I should have been halfway and maybe scored.”
As it was, the Mariners left runners at second and third when Brad Miller popped to short left and Kyle Seager hit a dribbler back to the mound.
Happ then gave it back in the bottom of the inning when the two walks and McCann’s double gave the Tigers a 3-2 lead.
The Mariners got even in the fifth when Robinson Cano drove a non-sinking splitter from Simon over the left field wall for his ninth homer.
Zunino’s two-out RBI single in the sixth put the Mariners on top and finished Simon. Austin Jackson led off with a single, stole second and barely avoided getting doubled up on Morrison’s liner to second.
Jackson moved to third on a wild pitch before Zunino pulled a single through the left side. It stayed 4-3 until the Detroit eighth.