Facing the lowly Phillies was supposed to be an opportunity for Seattle to stabilize after dropping two of three against Houston. Instead, the Mariners have lost four straight headed out on a brief three-game road trip against the Angels before returning home for seven games before the All-Star break.
“Baseball is a great game but many days it can be cruel,” Seattle manager Scott Servais said.
The collapse on Wednesday was on the shoulders of Diaz, Seattle’s young closer who was brilliant last year as a rookie but has stumbled at times in 2017. Seattle held a 4-3 lead headed to the ninth and had not allowed a hit to the Phillies since the third inning. Joseph changed that quickly hitting a 98 mph fastball on a 3-2 pitch from Diaz (2-3) out to left field, tying the game at 4-all.
Diaz struck out the next two batters, but walked Cameron Perkins and a balk moved Perkins into scoring position. Knapp delivered, lining a 1-2 pitch into right field to give the Phillies the lead.
It was the second straight game Diaz was less than his best in the ninth inning. Diaz allowed four runs — none earned — in a non-save situation on Tuesday. Servais was critical of Diaz’s focus but wanted his closer back in on Wednesday.
Servais got his wish, but Diaz couldn’t deliver, blowing his third save of the season. Servais said he’s likely to stick with Diaz as his closer going forward.
“I missed a couple of pitches and I paid the price,” Diaz said. “It was nothing mechanical. Just missed location.”
Philadelphia won a road series for the first time since late April. Ricardo Pinto (1-0) pitched three innings of relief to get the win and Hector Neris worked the ninth for his seventh save. Along with the rally in the ninth, the Phillies got the second career home run from Ty Kelly and an RBI groundout from Odubel Herrera in the third inning off Felix Hernandez.
“Pinto was the key to that game. He gave us three strong innings, kept the game close and really pitched well for a young kid,” Philadelphia manager Pete Mackanin said.
Seattle appeared fine after Robinson Cano’s 14th home run of the season snapped a 3-all tie. Seattle also got solo homers from Kyle Seager and Danny Valencia, and an RBI single by Nelson Cruz all coming off Philadelphia starter Mark Leiter Jr.
But the Mariners were unable to add on to the lead. Knapp said his approach changed once the balk by Diaz got Perkins to second base.
“I knew he was going to challenge me. He has a really good fastball. I was just making sure I battled and put the ball in play,” Knapp said.
The ninth-inning troubles cost Hernandez a second straight victory since coming off the disabled list. Hernandez was not overpowering in his second start after missing nearly two months with shoulder inflammation. But Hernandez limited the damage to just one inning when the Phillies had four consecutive hits helping lead to all three runs. Hernandez threw six innings, striking out five and allowed just one hit outside of the third inning.
“The first three innings, I wasn’t in a rhythm, but after that I felt more comfortable and was more aggressive in the strike zone,” Hernandez said.
In just his second career start, Leiter allowed four runs and nine hits over five innings. He had allowed just two home runs in 25 innings all season, but gave up three to the Mariners.
UNDER THE KNIFE
Seattle got unwanted news on Wednesday when it was announced that LHP Drew Smyly would need Tommy John surgery to repair a torn ulnar collateral ligament. Smyly had been out since spring training with a flexor strain in his pitching arm, but Seattle was hopeful of getting him back after the All-Star break. Recovery time is 12 to 15 months.
Phillies: After a day off Philadelphia opens a series against the New York Mets. Ben Lively (1-2) gets the nod for the opener on Friday.
Mariners: After a day off Seattle opens a three-game series against the Angels in Anaheim. Sam Gaviglio (3-2) starts the series opener.