Rookie Brandon Maurer was boxed around again, allowing five earned runs in 5 ⅔ innings in the Mariners’ 6-1 loss to San Diego. It could have been worse. Endy Chavez made a leaping grab at the wall in right in the sixth inning with two runners on and two in.
Maurer had walked Jedd Gyorko, who homered off him in the fourth, to load the bases before Mark Kotsay singled in two. Chavez’s aerial work temporarily saved further scoring. It was also the end of Maurer’s night.
Maurer faced another lineup filled with left-handed hitters, the ongoing rocks in his shoe. Coming into Tuesday, left-handed batters were devouring Maurer with a .363 average and .562 slugging percentage.
Left-hander Chase Headley doubled off Maurer. Six of the nine hits he allowed, including a home run to Alexi Amarista, were by left-handed batters.
This mediocre outing bumped Maurer’s ERA from 6.80 to 6.93.
Maurer’s struggles continue a season-long issue for the Mariners at the back of the rotation. Maurer is now 2-7, has pitched into the seventh inning just twice and averages just short of five innings per outing. He’s allowed 10 home runs in 10 starts. His spot in the rotation is in jeopardy.
The Mariners are rapidly approaching a decision point with veteran Jeremy Bonderman, who needs to be put on the 25-man roster by June 1 or is eligible for free agency.
Bonderman threw just 71 pitches in four innings for the Rainiers on Tuesday night, though he allowed just a run on five hits and two walks. It was a season-low pitch total for Bonderman.
His start dates also match up with Maurer’s. He could be an option to join the rotation. The Mariners could also look at moving Hector Noesi back into the rotation. A more distant part of the discussion is Erasmo Ramirez, who started Tuesday for Double-A Jackson and pitched well.
Maurer is able to provide flashes of talent. He struck out Headley, last season’s Silver Slugger winner for the National League at third base, with three impressive pitches in the third. First was an 86-mph changeup. Next was a 94-mph fastball and the last was a 76-mph curveball.
Mariners manager Eric Wedge was asked how far away from consistently doing that Maurer is.
“I don’t think he’s that far,” Wedge said. “It’s just a matter of what’s the best path for him to get that consistently. I think what you have to do is again, sit down and talk about it. You weigh out everything and evaluate what he’s been doing in the time he’s been here and go from there.”
But, too often in other situations, Maurer was throwing pitches down the middle of the plate. The home run Amarista hit came off a changeup in the center of the plate. Gyorko hit a middle-cut slider out for a two-run homer in the fourth.