In the crucial stretch of late-September, and with postseason expectations at a season high, the Mariners have been swept out of the picture.
The Dodgers just marched into T-Mobile Park and swept Seattle across three weekend games, each in front of near sellout crowds. And after regaining possession of a playoff spot earlier this week, the Mariners are again outside of the picture, looking in.
"They jumped on us," manager Scott Servais said.
Sunday's loss only made matters worse — Logan Gilbert surrendered a pair of early homers to Jason Heyward and Austin Barnes, enough for Los Angeles to cruise toward its third-straight win in Seattle, 6-1. The Dodgers piled six runs in each win and, with Sunday's victory, secured a road sweep that pleased the large crowd of Dodgers' faithful.
Dodgers starter Ryan Yarbrough flashed elite command of a trio of offspeed pitches — he induced a game-high 15 swing-and-misses, 11 with his curveball — and Seattle never recovered from an early four-run deficit.
"We'll be fine here down the stretch," Servais said. "The Dodgers are really good. They played better than us. When a talented team comes in here and plays and executes better than you, you're going to be on the bad side of it."
There's still a logjam in the AL West and wild card races, but for now, the Mariners remain one game behind Texas for the final wild card spot and 2.5 games behind Houston for the AL West lead.
Seattle hitters are struggling — per FanGraphs, they rank third-highest among MLB teams in strikeout rate (26.3 percent) since Sept. 1, and have walked at just a 6.4-percent clip in that span, which ranks second-worst in MLB.
"As good as we were going offensively in August, and we were smoking hot, those are the same players we've got out there right now," Servais said. "With the same approach, the same mindset."
It sets up an exciting finish, nonetheless. Upon return from their final road trip of the season on Sept. 25, the Mariners' final seven games of the regular season are with the Astros and Rangers — the clubs standing in their way in each race.
Saturday's middle game was Seattle's best opportunity for victory, aided by Bryce Miller's 5 1/3 shutout innings and sparkling performances by a trio of relievers that pushed a scoreless game to extras. But the Mariners finished the game 1-for-13 with runners in scoring position, and the Dodgers ran away with five runs in the 11th.
Los Angeles clinched the NL West crown Saturday, celebrating their 11th division title in 12 years. Heyward was the series MVP — the Dodgers veteran went 8-for-13 with four doubles in three games.
13 games remain.
"I talked to our team last night after the game," Servais said. "I feel very strongly... We are going to play October baseball. It's not going to be easy to get there.
"I believe in our club. I've seen us go so good for so long. It's in there. We've got to play two good weeks of baseball to get into October, and then anything can happen from there. I believe we've got it in us."
GONZALES IS NOMINEE FOR CLEMENTE AWARD
Marco Gonzales is Seattle's 2023 nominee for the Roberto Clemente Award, named after the Pittsburgh great and "presented annually in recognition of a Major League player who best represents the game of baseball through extraordinary character, community involvement, philanthropy and positive contributions, both on and off the field," per a team release.
Friday, Gonzales accepted the recognition in a pregame ceremony for consecutive seasons, also the 2022 nominee.
Gonzales, with his wife Monica, released a limited-edition red wine to raise funds for Multiple System Atrophy (MSA) research — a rare, degenerative neurological disorder that impacted the Gonzales family in 2016, per a team press release. For a second year, he joined the Washington State Coalition Against Domestic Violence (WSCADV) and served as a spokesperson for the Refuse to Abuse campaign. This year's Refuse to Abuse 5K held at T-Mobile Park raised $85,365, per the release.
"We've been involved in so much. We just try to ingrain ourselves in the Seattle area as much as we can. (It's) our home to us. We're raising our babies here. We have family here, we have friends here.
"I'm really proud of our efforts. I hope I've inspired some of my teammates and people around the area to do the same."
Gonzales has not appeared in a game since May 28 in a home start vs. Pittsburgh. The southpaw starter felt discomfort in his throwing arm and was later placed on the injured list with a flexor strain.
"The focus has been building strength," Gonzales said, who is on track to return for spring training in 2024. "My arm feels good."
Welcome back, Luis Torrens: The former Mariners catcher/designated hitter rejoined the team Tuesday after a brief stint with the Chicago Cubs.
Torrens signed a minor league contract with the Mariners on Aug. 30 and reported to Triple-A Tacoma, where he went 4-for-20 (.200) across five games. Seattle recalled him in Tuesday's announcement that sent catcher Brian O'Keefe to the paternity list.
Torrens made his Mariners debut in 2020, acquired alongside Ty France, Andres Munoz, and Taylor Trammell in a deadline-trade with San Diego. He has now appeared with the Mariners for four straight major league seasons.
"He's excited to be back," Servais said of Torrens. "Good dude. We really like him. I said to him: 'Don't worry about getting any hits. Get into the bullpen and catch all of those guys, so if you end up in the game tonight in the ninth or 10th inning, you've caught them.'"
Yet Tuesday called for less drama than anticipated. Seattle piled seven runs in four innings and Bryan Woo tossed a 5.2-inning shutout, allowing the Mariners to go on late-game cruise control.
With an eight-run lead in the eighth, Torrens pinch-hit for DH Sam Haggerty. And on the second pitch he saw, Torrens ripped a ground ball fair down the left-field line and coasted into second base for a double. — Seattle's final seven games of the regular season are crucial, divisional contests that will likely crown an AL West champion — and two have been flexed to National Television telecasts.
Per Mariners PR, the game on Sept. 26 with Houston will now begin at 7:05 p.m. and air on TBS. It will still air on ROOT Sports.
The game on Sept. 30 with Texas will begin at 4:15 p.m., exclusively on FOX. — OF Teoscar Hernandez's on-base streak of 30 games, which was the longest active streak in MLB, ended Sunday (0-for-4, K).
Now begins Seattle's final road trip of the regular season. The Mariners visit Oakland for a three-game series that begins Monday (Sept. 18-20), plus a stop with the Rangers over the weekend (Sept. 22-24).