Detroit – The jockeying for playoff positions could go back and forth for a while.
But the Tigers went back instead of forth on Friday night.
In a 7-2 loss to the Seattle Mariners, Rick Porcello suffered a third consecutive defeat and the Tigers fell a half-game behind the surging Mariners in the standings for the second wild-card spot.
If this had been the Tigers’ 162nd game, they’d be out of the playoffs.
But it was their 120th game instead.
“We’d much rather be in first place by 15 games, but that’s not the case,” manager Brad Ausmus said, “so we’re just going to keep going.
“There’s a ton of baseball left.”
Or as Rajai Davis put it, “the season isn’t over, so we don’t have to worry about that.”
The victory for the Mariners was the ninth in their last 10 games. The Tigers have countered Seattle’s streak by going 3-7 in their last 10.
To put it another way: It’s taken the Tigers 22 games to win the nine games that the M’s have won in 10.
That explains the more back than forth.
The Mariners scored all but one of their runs in the first five innings off Porcello (13-8) — and with the Tigers responding insufficiently against lefthander James Paxton (3-0), it didn’t matter much that righthander Melvin Mercedes worked two scoreless innings of relief in his first major-league appearance.
Except to big Melvin, of course.
“There’s really the one bright spot. He didn’t seem nervous. He got outs for us,” Ausmus said of Mercedes’ smooth debut.
What did not go all that smoothly was Austin Jackson’s return to Comerica Park with his new team.
Jackson went 0-for-5. In a bases-loaded at-bat in the second inning with no outs, he hit into a double play, was thrown out stealing in the fourth, and didn’t play one of Miguel Cabrera’s two doubles as well as he could have.
But his team won.
It was also the return to Comerica Park for former Tigers’ coach Lloyd McClendon, who now manages Seattle.
McClendon described the Mariners as “an up-and-coming team. We’re playing well, pitching well and we catch the ball.
“I like where we are. I think we have a chance to do some special things.”
Of the Tigers, McClendon said, “I know a lot of those guys in that clubhouse and that they are capable of getting it done.
“I’d be surprised if they don’t get it done.”
The Mariners took a 3-0 lead in the second inning — which “kind of got them rolling,” said Ausmus — then they added single runs in each of the next three innings.
“I just didn’t pitch well,” said Porcello, trying to rebound from a loss in relief Sunday in the 19-inning marathon against the Blue Jays. “I was up in the zone the whole night.”
The Tigers countered with a run in the third on Davis’ one-out triple to the corner in right, followed by Ian Kinsler’s grounder to short.
Cabrera also hit his second double in the third, but a fine play by Mariners’ shortstop Chris Taylor on Victor Martinez ended the inning without a second run for the Tigers.
The fourth inning looked like it began in promising fashion with Torii Hunter ending up at second on what appeared to be Taylor’s second error of the game, but the Mariners won their challenge on the first-base portion of the play.
Despite Taylor’s high throw to first, it was ruled that Hunter was tagged before his foot hit the bag.
For a while, it looked like the Tigers could do nothing but hit the ball to short. Taylor had four fielding chances in the first, eight after the third, and nine after the fourth.
In fact, the arm strength he displayed on the throw to first to get Martinez for the third out of the third was quite impressive.
“He made a number of plays,” Ausmus said of Taylor.
The Mariners did most of their damage off Porcello with singles. Only two of the 10 hits off him went for extra bases: Logan Morrison’s double in the fourth and Robinson Cano’s 11th home run in the third.
In his six innings, Porcello allowed six runs, five earned, on 10 hits and no walks.
“It was a miracle I got through six (innings) the way I threw the ball,” he said.
For Seattle, Paxton also lasted six innings, allowing a run on five hits and one walk while lowering his ERA to 2.20.