It’s a truism in baseball, discussed here a few days back, that blowout losses are the easiest to shrug off. You got beat. You really had no chance to win. You move on.
All true. For a single blowout loss.
The Mariners absorbed a 10-1 pounding on Tuesday from the Washington Nationals, which makes three straight blowout losses — by a combined score of 34-3. That’s not so easy to shake off.
Right-hander Christian Bergman gave up 10 runs and 14 hits in four innings. It was a complete reversal of his previous start, when he pitched 7 1/3 scoreless innings against Oakland.
Anthony Rendon hit two homers and drove in five runs. Jayson Werth and Bryce Harper also hit homers. The Nationals scored two runs in the first inning, on Rendon’s first homer, before erupting for eight runs in the fourth inning.
The Mariners (20-26) have lost four in a row, nine of their last 12 and have matched a season low in falling to six games under .500. Their rotation remains in tatters with four of their original five starters on the disabled list.
That’s why, perhaps, manager Scott Servais chose afterward to focus on the lack of offense in his club’s recent skid: 32 runs in its last 12 games, including eight when the Mariners scored two or fewer runs.
" Our starting pitching, obviously, has struggled the last three or four days," Servais said, "but we’ve got to get that offense going. We haven’t been able to keep the line moving at all.
"It’s just the quality of the at-bats. Getting deep in counts. We’re letting pitchers just run through us. They’re looking up, it’s the seventh inning, and they’re not even close to 100 pitches yet.
"When we’re going well, we’re grinding out at-bats. The pitch count rises early in the game. You get into their bullpen. We’re just not doing that."
Three takeaways from Tuesday’s loss:
***Cruz in right field: It’s easy to understand why the Mariners started designated hitter Nelson Cruz in right field. This series is being played under National League rules, which means no DH, and Cruz’s bat is too potent to keep on the bench.
It’s also easy to see why Cruz is a full-time DH. Washington’s eight-run fourth inning spiraled out of control when Cruz failed to track down Trea Turner’s deep two-out fly ball.
It wasn’t a routine play, but it was a catchable ball.
The Nationals had only scored one run in the inning and led just 3-0 before Turner’s fly eluded Cruz for an RBI triple. Washington scored another six runs before the inning ended. The game was over.
***Deep early holes: Servais wants, justifiably, more production from his lineup. Scoring just one run in each of the last three games pretty much guaranteed three losses.
But…the Mariners trailed 4-0 before they came to bat in the first inning on Saturday against the White Sox, and Chicago scored five runs in the first inning on Sunday at Safeco Field.
The Mariners batted first Tuesday, and didn’t score, before Washington put them in a quick hole by scoring two runs in the first inning. Then came the eight-run fourth. It’s much harder to grind out at-bats from the base of a mountain.
"We talked about it with our hitters," Servais said. "That’s their at-bat. Don’t just give it away, but it does make it more challenging when you're behind the eight-ball, down five or six runs or more like we have been."
***A positive swing: Tuesday’s loss did produce one encouraging moment when catcher Mike Zunino, in his first game back from Triple-A Tacoma, hit a leadoff homer in the sixth inning.
The Mariners demoted Zunino earlier this month because he kept missing hittable pitches in hitters’ counts. His homer came on a 3-1 fastball from Washington starter Joe Ross.
"When my bat path is clean," Zunino said, "and you get into hitter’s counts, you look for your pitch. When you get it, you should hit it. That’s what I expect out of myself."
Bob Dutton: @TNT_Mariners