Are the Seattle Mariners sure that Fernando Rodney is the only guy who has been tipping pitches?
Their pitching meltdown continued Thursday night when J.A. Happ served up seven runs in less than four innings in a 9-5 loss to the Minnesota Twins in the start to a four-game weekend series at Target Field.
“It just seemed like they were on (everything),” Happ said. “I’m going to have to take a look (at the tape) and see what’s going on here. It seemed like they weren’t fooled by much tonight.”
If you’re counting, that’s 88 runs (80 earned) over the past 15 games. That translates to a 5.33 ERA and a 5-10 record in that span that, pretty much, flushed any hopes for a belated postseason run.
It’s getting grim.
Happ (4-6) spit back an early lead and offered little to entice other clubs on the final night prior to the non-waiver trade deadline. He has given up 10 runs and 10 hits over 41/3 innings in his past two starts.
“It was a beating,” he said. “It seemed like whatever adjustment I tried to make, they were right on it. I made some mistakes over the plate, and it cost me. Not a good time for that after the few games that we’ve had. “
Manager Lloyd McClendon said Happ would remain in the rotation and make his next scheduled start Tuesday at Colorado.
“You’ve got to have options,” McClendon said, “that are reliable to run out there other than that guy. Right now, we’ll keep running him out there. We think he’s a part of this, and he’ll be out there in five days.”
That seems to dismiss lefty Roenis Elias, who has given up 20 runs in 27 innings in five starts at Triple-A Tacoma since being optioned July 4 back to the Rainiers.
McClendon said it “would certainly help quite a bit” if Elias were pitching better in the minors.
The Mariners did make one postgame roster move in optioning shortstop Chris Taylor to Tacoma. This creates a need for two replacements because of the trade earlier in the day that sent Dustin Ackley to the Yankees.
Barring further trades, which club officials say are still possible, the Mariners are likely to recall first baseman/designated hitter Jesus Montero and infielder Ketel Marte from Tacoma.
Back to Thursday’s debacle: Happ’s problems prevented the Mariners from taking full advantage of an ineffective Phil Hughes, who gave up five runs and 10 hits in five innings.
Hughes (10-6) still handed a a three-run lead to bullpen, which nursed it home over the final four innings.
It started well.
Austin Jackson opened the game with a double over the head of center fielder Aaron Hicks and, with two outs, Seth Smith crushed a first-pitch fastball for a two-run homer.
The Twins, who had lost four in a row, answered with a five-run first inning against Happ. They got one run back immediately when Brian Dozier led off with a no-doubt homer to left.
Hicks lined a single to center before Happ recorded an out on Joe Mauer’s liner to left. Miguel Sano’s squibber to the left side should have been the second out, but Happ’s throw pulled Mark Trumbo off first.
Torii Hunter’s sharp grounder through the left side produced the tying run.
It got worse.
Eddie Rosario rocked an 0-1 curve over the right-field wall for a three-run homer. That quickly, the Twins led, 5-2. The five runs marked their biggest first-inning output of the season.
“The three-run home run was a bad pitch,” Happ said, “but it was a backup curveball that he just stayed on. It wasn’t necessarily a middle-of-the-plate pitch. I knew what I needed to do. I just didn’t execute.”
Minnesota pushed its lead to 6-2 on Hicks’ one-out homer in the second.
The Mariners bunched three singles for a run in the third inning, but Happ started the bottom of the inning by yielding a double to Rosario, who scored on Jorge Polanco’s two-out single.
Hughes’ struggles permitted the Mariners to cut the deficit to 7-5 in the fourth. Taylor led off with a double to left, and Jackson drove a no-doubt homer to center.
Rosario started the fifth with a leadoff triple against Tom Wilhelmsen and scored by beating an ill-conceived throw home by Taylor on Eduardo Escobar’s grounder to second.
The Twins added another run in the seventh.