1 of 3 M’s pitcher Sam Gaviglio gave up three runs in the first inning Thursday. (Ted S. Warren/AP)
The Mariners’ eighth straight loss at Safeco Field — a disconcerting 7-4 defeat to the struggling Oakland A’s — was sealed well before the sky grew dark on a perfect summer night.
Down three in the first inning and seven by the fifth inning, the Mariners had removed any drama before the announced crowd of 18,368 even thought of stretching in the seventh inning.
A late push in the ninth made the score respectable. Danny Valencia belted a three-run homer off A’s reliever Daniel Coulombe, but it only halved the deficit that the Mariners were trailing by.
A day earlier Mariners manager Scott Servais opined that the team had reached a critical point in the 2017 season. A lackluster showing, featuring baserunning miscues by Mitch Haniger and Jean Segura, and a listless loss to an A’s team that came into the game with 13-27 road record wasn’t the response he was looking for.
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“Not a good ballgame,” Servais said quietly. “We’ve got to get it going. Just not a whole lot to say about it. We got beat. We just didn’t play a good game.”
Besides the home losing streak, Seattle has lost nine of its past 11 games to fall to 41-46 on the season with three games to play before the All-Star break.
“We’ve got to start playing better baseball,” Servais said. “Tough start tonight to the game, tough start last night to the game, and we’ve got to pick it up. Everybody has to pick it up — players, coaches, myself. We are better than this, but the only way out is we’ve got to figure it out. It starts tomorrow.”
The plan is pretty simple.
“We need to go out and get these last three games,” said Haniger.
Seattle starter Sam Gaviglio, who had given the Mariners innings of some quality in his outings, but not always much quantity, provided neither against the A’s in his worst outing of the season.
Gaviglio pitched 42/3 innings, giving up seven runs on nine hits, including two homers, with three walks and six strikeouts.
He struggled in his first inning of work and his last, and pieced together a few decent frames in between. Oakland scored three runs in the first inning and probably could’ve had more. Gaviglio kept the damage to three, then worked three scoreless innings and seemed poised to at least keep the Mariners within striking distance.
“I left some pitches up and I was in some bad counts,” Gaviglio said.
It fell apart in the fifth. He gave up a leadoff single, issued a walk and then served up a towering three-run homer to right field off the bat of Khris Davis to make it 6-0. Later with two outs, Bruce Maxwell slammed a solo shot to left field to make it 7-0 and end Gaviglio’s night.
“He fell behind in the count and wasn’t sharp,” Servais said. “We’ve seen him not be sharp early in games and figure out a way to get through five or six innings. But tonight it didn’t happen.”
Across the diamond, a pitcher named Paul Blackburn made his second big-league start of the season, tossing 72/3 innings and allowing one run on eight hits with one walk and no strikeouts to get his first big-league win.
If the name sounds familiar, it’s because Blackburn was briefly a Mariners prospect. He was acquired along with first baseman Daniel Vogelbach from the Cubs for pitcher Mike Montgomery in what has become a regrettable trade for the Mariners. Blackburn was shipped to the A’s this offseason for Valencia.
“He’s a young guy that you don’t know a ton about,” Servais said.
Blackburn’s only run allowed came from one of the handful of positives for Seattle on the night. Haniger, who came in with just two hits in his previous 32 at-bats, hit a solo homer to right field in the bottom of the fifth. Haniger also had a double earlier in the game.
Segura was also a positive on the night, going 4 for 4 with a double.