D-backs' offense stifled by Seattle
Seventh inning turns sour for Buckner in loss
SEATTLE -- The game-time temperature Saturday at Safeco Field was 63 degrees.
As for the D-backs, their fortunes have cooled to an even lower temperature as they lost to the Mariners for the second straight night, this one by a 7-3 margin.
"When we play well, we have a lot of energy," D-backs manager A.J. Hinch said. "When we don't play well, we disappear a couple of innings. That's the frustrating part. We have to find a way to be consistent throughout 27 outs. That's on offense, that's on defense, that's on the mound. To put some complete games together, to put a string together, that's going to make a difference in our season. That's what we're lacking now. We have the ability to do it, we have the personnel to do it, we just need to do it, period."
Just a couple of days ago, in the heat and humidity of Kansas City, it seemed the D-backs were showing signs of doing that. A team meeting followed by a pair of wins to close out a three-game series seemingly sent the D-backs to the Emerald City with some momentum.
Now, they are back searching for answers.
Saturday's storyline was an all-too-familiar one for the D-backs. They got a decent outing from starter Billy Buckner and scored early only to give up big innings late.
The D-backs got on the board in the first when Felipe Lopez scored on a throwing error by catcher Rob Johnson.
Then, in the words of Hinch, they disappeared.
Over the next five innings, they did not score. Not only that, they did not get a hit. Not one baserunner as Mariners starter Jason Vargas (3-2) was able to find his rhythm.
Meanwhile, Seattle tied the game when center fielder Gerardo Parra booted a ball in the third and took a 2-1 lead one inning later on Wladimir Balentien's second homer of the year.
Vargas' string of consecutive hitters retired was finally snapped at 17 when Justin Upton led off the seventh with a homer to tie the game.
Things fell apart in the bottom of the seventh for Buckner (2-4) and the D-backs.
After Yuniesky Bentancourt legged out an infield hit to start the inning, Ichiro Suzuki hit a chopper to the right of the mound that Buckner instinctively reached for, and the ball hit off his glove and bounced into right.
Had Buckner not touched the ball, it looked on replays like second baseman Lopez would have been able to field the ball and gotten one if not two outs. Instead, the Mariners cobbled together a two-run rally to go ahead, 4-2.
"The way Felipe kind of reacted to when I hit it off my glove leads me to believe he was going to get to it," Buckner said. "I wish there was some way to turn it back and not go after it, but instincts tell you to go get any ball. If I catch it, it's a double play anyways. I guess that's the way it went."
The Mariners piled on another three runs in the eighth, which made the D-backs' rally in the ninth moot.
It was a positive outing for Buckner, who likely saved his spot in the rotation after two prior rough starts.
"He kept us in the game," Hinch said. "I think his tempo was good, [and] he was aggressive in the zone. A lot of what makes him successful he did tonight. [He] competed, and I think he had a good curveball and he had his sinker going, which is a good combination. We just didn't offer much help offensively for him and things gave way a little bit late in the game."
Steve Gilbert is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.