Cycle back a couple of days.
Had the Mariners not squandered a late three-run lead Thursday in losing the series opener to the Chicago White Sox, then absorbing a 9-3 thumping Saturday would go down a little easier.
Instead, it means the Mariners — even after beating Chris Sale on Friday behind a strong outing from Felix Hernandez — must win Sunday’s series finale just to break even this weekend at U.S. Cellular Field.
Saturday was a dud. Plain and simple. They happen.
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As manager Scott Servais noted: “Not our night.”
Mariners rookie lefty Ariel Miranda (1-1) labored through 90 pitches over four innings while giving up three runs and five hits. He challenged fellow Cuban Jose Abreu with the score 1-1 in the first inning — and lost.
“I fell behind in the count,” Miranda said, “and had to throw the ball down the middle. He made me pay for it.”
Still, it was just 3-1 when Miranda departed.
Chicago blew the game open with a four-run fifth inning against Vidal Nuno, who retired the first two hitters before surrendering five consecutive hits — including homers on successive pitches to Avisail Garcia and Alex Avila.
“The curveball, I left up to Garcia,” Nuno said. “The next guy, a changeup.”
That was way too much for the Mariners to overcome against All-Star lefty Jose Quintana, who rarely gets this kind of run support; he received fewer than two runs from the White Sox in 11 of his previous 18 starts.
Quintana (11-9) gave up two runs and five hits over 7 2/3 innings while lowering his ERA to 2.77. Dan Jennings closed out the eighth inning, but Jacob Turner slopped up the ninth before Nate Jones closed out the victory.
Nuno took a beating over three innings after replacing Miranda.
In addition to the four-run fifth, Nuno surrendered a two-run homer in the seventh to Tyler Saladino. In all, Nuno allowed 10 hits and saw his ERA spike nearly a full run from 2.68 to 3.60.
“It was one of those weird days,” said Nuno, who had not allowed a run in his 12 previous appearances. “I haven’t had one of those in a while. Tomorrow is a different day. Today, I didn’t get it done, but it’s over with.”
The loss prevented the Mariners from closing to within one game of Baltimore in the race for the American League’s final wild-card spot.
The Mariners actually jumped to an early lead after Leonys Martin opened the game with a double off the right field fence. He went to third on a passed ball and scored on Robinson Cano’s sacrifice fly to deep right.
Chicago answered with two runs.
Tim Anderson lined a one-out triple to right field. It probably should have been a double, but Anderson took advantage of Franklin Gutierrez’s diminished range. Martin had to track down the ball from center.
Melky Cabrera delivered a sacrifice fly.
The White Sox took the lead on Abreu’s 436-foot homer to center on a 93-mph fastball from Miranda.
It stayed 2-1 until Miranda encountered two-out problems in the fourth.
After Garcia grounded a double past third, Miranda walked Avila and yielded an RBI single to Saladino. Another walk, to Adam Eaton, loaded the bases before Miranda retired Anderson on a fielder’s choice.
“I lost my rhythm there after two outs,” Miranda said. “I couldn’t command my fastball to get ahead in the count. That was the reason for having a bad outing.”
Chicago’s four-run fifth against Nuno turned the game into a rout.
Todd Frazier lined a two-out single to left and came all the way around on a triple by Justin Morneau into the right field corner that again exposed Gutierrez’s lack of speed.
Garcia and Avila followed with homers, and it was 7-1.
The Mariners got one run back in the sixth on Guillermo Heredia’s RBI single, but the chance for a bigger inning slipped away when Cano was thrown out at second trying to stretch a single.
PLAY OF THE GAME: Chris Iannetta lost track of the count while at the plate in the fifth inning and started toward first base after taking a 2-2 pitch for a ball. Iannetta struck out on the next pitch.
It was that kind of night.
Bob Dutton: @TNT_Mariners