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Moore: Mariners’ season is looking grim after 5th straight loss

Mariners RHP Yovani Gallardo gave up eight runs in Monday's 11-3 loss to the Orioles (AP)

I’m not sure why I kept watching ‘til the end, probably because I wanted to see Thyago Vieira make his major-league debut. I also thought it would be fun to see Carlos Ruiz pitch if summoned in a blowout game to preserve arms in the bullpen.

This Mariners’ season has gotten grim. They lost 11-3 to the Orioles Monday night, suffering their fifth consecutive defeat. It’s becoming more apparent that the Mariners are going to extend their playoff drought to 16 years, falling now two-and-a-half games out of the wild-card race.

Two-and-a-half games seems like 20-and-a-half games given the state of a rotation featuring Triple-A arms in the major leagues. We’ll see the newest one Tuesday night when Andrew Albers, acquired last week for cash from the Braves, starts against Wade Miley and the Orioles.

Here’s how bleak it is: if Miley were still here, he’d be an improvement over what the Mariners are throwing out there on the mound right now.

Scott Servais’ team has done a terrific job with overcoming injuries to this point, but it’s too much to ask for even just .500 baseball anymore. The loss of James Paxton for three weeks to a strained pectoral not only took the one sure thing out of your rotation, but it seemed to also take the life from the Mariners.

With Paxton, you still had a slim chance of making the playoffs. Without him – and it’s only human nature if you thought this in the clubhouse, too – you’re not going anywhere of note.

We’ll never know how far they could have gone if Drew Smyly, Felix Hernandez, Hisashi Iwakuma and Paxton had stayed healthy all year long. But we’re seeing where they are without them.

When the season ends, we’ll look back and think it was remarkable the Mariners were able to hang around in the playoff chase for as long as they did. Problem is, when they return for spring training next year, the window will only be slightly ajar with Robinson Cano turning 35 (in October), Nelson Cruz turning 38 (in July) and Felix’s arm turning 42, even if he will be 32 come April.

And who in the world will you be able to count on in the rotation for 2018? We already know the answer to that question in 2017 – no one. In 2018, Paxton – if he can stay healthy. Felix, not so much. Ariel Miranda? Same as Felix. Smyly is not going to pitch next year following Tommy John surgery. General manager Jerry Dipoto will have to find two or three starters through trades or free agency.

Of all the stats about the Mariners, the one I can’t believe the most is their record when scoring three runs or fewer: 4-42. I understand that most teams don’t have a winning record when scoring three runs or fewer, but this illustrates how bad the pitching has been. You’d think they’d have some 3-1 and 2-1 and 2-0 games here and there, but not this year, and not with this starting staff.

And for me, it also says something about the offense, which is generally better than it’s been in past seasons, but to score three runs or fewer in more than one-third of their games isn’t the sign of a consistent lineup.

The average combined ERAs of four starters – Yovanni Gallardo, Marco Gonzales, Erasmo Ramirez and Miranda – is over 5.00, and Gonzales is over 6.00, while Gallardo is close to 6.00.

Albers, a left-handed Canadian, will try to become this year’s version of Wade LeBlanc, a good late summer pickup in the 2016 season. Stunningly, Albers could be the best starter in the rotation sight unseen. His Triple-A numbers – 12-3, 2.61 ERA with 115 strikeouts – suggest that it’s not a far-fetched thought. Particularly given the competition, joining four starters who should not be on a major-league mound for a team in playoff contention.

If I’m an Orioles’ fan, I enjoyed watching Seth Smith’s two-run homer Monday night, feeling like my favorite team got the better end of the trade with the Mariners, who gave him up for Gallardo. (It’s amazing to think that Gallardo, who gave up a leadoff homer and seven more runs Monday night, makes $11 million this year. In the category of bang for your buck, he’s won five games, or more than $2 million per win.)

On most other teams, Gallardo would have been designated for assignment by now, but since the Mariners are so short on pitching, I’m guessing we’ll see him again this weekend in Atlanta.

The second inning Tuesday night was painful to watch. Gallardo threw 50 pitches and gave up six hits, including a grand slam by Manny Machado.

According to Bob Dutton of the News Tribune, the Mariners have given up 12 leadoff homers this year.

Have you lost all hope? I’d say I’ve lost 90 percent of mine. Realistically, the Mariners aren’t good enough. But there are still 42 games left, they’re only two-and-a-half out, and the teams they’re battling for the second wild-card spot aren’t very good either.

When you hear the saying “crazier things have happened,” you could say that about the Mariners’ chances. And if they somehow make it into the playoffs, you won’t be able to say that anymore because we will have just witnessed the craziest thing ever.

The Go 2 Guy also writes for SeattlePI.com and KitsapSun.com. You can reach Jim at jimmoorethego2guy@yahoo.com and follow him on Twitter @cougsgo.