Mariners Takeaways from Seattle’s Stunning 7-6 loss to Boston

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TOKYO, JAPAN - MARCH 21: Pitcher Yusei Kikuchi #18 of the Seattle Mariners returns to the dugout after the 2nd inning during the game between Seattle Mariners and Oakland Athletics at Tokyo Dome on March 21, 2019 in Tokyo, Japan. (Photo by Masterpress/Getty Images)
TOKYO, JAPAN - MARCH 21: Pitcher Yusei Kikuchi #18 of the Seattle Mariners returns to the dugout after the 2nd inning during the game between Seattle Mariners and Oakland Athletics at Tokyo Dome on March 21, 2019 in Tokyo, Japan. (Photo by Masterpress/Getty Images) /
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Even with a 6-1 lead, I never felt comfortable in my seat. Maybe it is from years of being a Mariners fan. Or maybe it’s because I know about their bullpen.

Through four innings, Seattle led by five. Losing the game wasn’t a consideration, as a young Mariners team looked to play add-on.

But runs only mean so much when the other team won’t go away. And when Yusei Kikuchi was inevitably removed from the game after six innings of work, Seattle would have to bank on a shaky bullpen, clumped together last-minute after a flurry of trades sent their best relievers packing.

This was supposed to be an article based on excitement for fresher, younger Mariners team, slugging their way past Boston consecutive nights. But my fear became reality, as the bullpen would succumb to the defending world champions.

The Red Sox chipped away at Seattle’s 6-1 lead with a run in each of the fifth and sixth innings. They tacked on another in the eighth before Mitch Moreland hit a pinch-hit three-run home run to give Boston a 7-6 lead in the top of the ninth.

The collapse of the Seattle bullpen will be a reoccurring act. Though the Mariners never faced reality last season, one-run wins aren’t sustainable. And though the Mariners led by two with three outs to play, fans at T-Mobile Park didn’t exert the confidence in new closer Hunter Strickland as they previously had for Edwin Díaz, who amassed 57 saves in an all-time year for Seattle in 2018.

But Díaz? Gone. Álex Colomé? Gone. The list continues for former Seattle relievers that could instill security to a fan base clinging to a one-run lead, almost nightly.

In the disappointment of a gut-wrenching loss, it’s easy to overlook breakout starts for newly-acquired Mariners. Left fielder Domingo Santana continued his on-base tear, reaching the base paths four times Friday night. And even though the bullpen couldn’t earn him the win, Yusei Kikuchi threw six strong innings, allowing just two earned runs in what should have been more than enough to extend the Mariners win streak.

If anything, the Mariners aim to contend by 2021. Most of the bullpen will hit free agency by next season anyway. But it’s hard for a fan of any team to accept a throw-away year, especially after a 3-0 start against some of baseball’s best teams.

Though a step-back may be in order for a young Seattle squad, the Mariners are going to score runs. What matters most is whether it’ll be enough to win the game.

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