I’d be interested to know, when they discuss things internally, whether the Seattle Mariners look at the San Diego Padres as a blueprint for their hopeful future success. Tonight’s 6-4 loss in San Diego wasn’t as grisly as Friday night’s obliteration, but it was authoritative and unflinching, like a stern principal dismissing a cowed student after warning them to never try something so foolish again as challenging them. Even as the M’s drew closer in the ninth, things felt disappointingly decided. San Diego’s performance all night long was a reminder how vast an expanse the Mariners have to travel yet in their journey to building a consistent contender.
While things held reasonably in check for the first half of the contest, with a grounder RBI double from Ha-Seong Kim and a Mitch Haniger solo homer carrying things through the middle of the 5th all tied. Despite several flirtations with trouble, Justus Sheffield eluded issues with effective wildness that he seemed to have a shot at carrying through a few more innings. The M’s got a few major assists from savvy defense on the Padres’ aggressive baserunning, picking off Fernando Tatis Jr. and throwing out Jurickson Profar stealing.
Then came the bottom of the 5th, and Sheffield could not hold it together further.
That same aggressive baserunning helped unravel Seattle’s thin grasp on the control levers for tonight’s game, as Jorge Mateo turned a single into a run with a bunt advancement and an easy steal of third that caused a wild throw from Tom Murphy and a 2-1 deficit for Seattle. Sheffield’s subsequent walk to Tommy Pham proved a blood thinner in lieu of a badly needed tourniquet, as it was followed by a single, a hard-won strikeout, and an intentional walk to Tatis Jr. bringing up Eric Hosmer. What followed was at least somewhat difficult to process, but a series of errors that evoked the depths of 2019.
This is a single that should score two runs, and it does. While Jarred Kelenic’s wide, many-hopping throw home isn’t particularly competitive, it’s not so wayward as to cause concern. A great throw might’ve challenged Profar at the plate, but it is all the more dismal as it skirts through Murphy’s wickets somehow, leaving a hustling Tatis Jr. a window he gleefully Kool-Aid Man’s his way through, scoring from first and moving Hosmer up to second in the process. It’s three bases worth of error on a poor throw and an even worse block, and had the ball been blocked up successfully the inning might’ve finished just 4-1 or 5-1 instead of 6-1.
But ifs are not fifths and wishes are not fishes, the Mariners responded appropriately to being buried by an excellent team and dug furiously but futilely for the surface. Kyle Seager and Mitch Haniger gave their best efforts as usual, but the shambling rendition of the current roster is not shaped like a convincing major league team, much less a contender. It is the 2017 Padres against the 2021 version, a far cry from one another in every way. The learning curve for a young team is often steep, but this has been a particularly painful quarter for the M’s curriculum. They have their next exam tomorrow, same teachers, new lessons. It’s not going to get any easier.