Mariners blanked by Braves

Mariners far off form in 4-0 loss to Atlanta

ATLANTA — It’s difficult to recall which one said it, because there have been more than a few, but one of the Mariners managers from the past decade often said, “It’s hard to win one baseball game.”

The rejoinder to that statement should have been, but it’s not as hard to lose one. A poor outing from the starter, less than stellar relief pitching, minimal to no offense or mistakes in the field — any one of those things can torpedo a victory.

But it wasn’t just one of those aspects responsible for Seattle’s lackluster 4-0 loss to the Braves on Tuesday night at SunTrust Park — it was all of them.

—The Mariners got a forgettable start from lefty Marco Gonzales, who didn’t make it out of the fifth inning.

—Their pitchers, which included relievers James Pazos and Dan Altavilla, didn’t work one inning without allowing a base runner or two.

—The defense made two errors, dropping balls on routine plays that led directly to runs being scored.

—And the offense was shut out for the 10th time this season and second time on this road trip, mustering just five hits while going 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position and stranding nine runners on base. The 10 shutouts are tied for the most in baseball with Tampa Bay and Kansas City.

Yep, it’s hard to win a game with all that going on. Seattle dropped to 64-63 on the season.

“We just didn’t get anything going offensively,” said manager Scott Servais. “We haven’t played clean baseball. We’ve got to tighten that up. Obviously we’ve got a lot of games ahead of us on this trip and you can’t make those mistakes on the road and expect to win games. We got through it last night, but tonight it caught us.”

For the fourth consecutive start since joining the Mariners, Gonzales failed to make it through five innings.

The lefty wasn’t awful, but he wasn’t great either and he was far from efficient. Gonzales dealt with base runners in every inning. To his credit, he avoided allowing any runs in the first three innings. That changed in the fourth when he left a 3-2 changeup over the middle of the plate that Nick Markakis turned into a souvenir for the fans in the fancy seats in right field.

“Not a bad pitch,” Gonzales said. “He reached out and got it before it broke. Hats off to him.”

It was the start of a 31-pitch inning that zapped his pitch count.

“He threw a lot of pitches and it was very humid and warm,” Servais said. “It did take something out of him. But I thought he was in a good spot there in the fifth.”

Indeed, Gonzales got two quick outs to start the inning. But a walk to Freddie Freeman and a single from Matt Kemp ended his outing at 99 pitches.

“We’ve got get him over the hump in the fifth inning,” Servais said. “I certainly think his stuff is good enough.”

Meanwhile, Braves starter Lucas Sims (with a 5.24 ERA coming into the game) shut down a Seattle lineup that even had Nelson Cruz in it. Sims tossed six shutout innings, allowing three hits with two walks and four strikeouts.

“He’s got five pitches and just spotted them up and mixed speeds,” Mitch Haniger said. “With runners on, he was good mixing up his tempo.”

Sims, a former first-round pick and once a heralded prospect, was just the fourth Braves’ starting pitcher to have a scoreless outing at home this season.

As for the errors, Kyle Seager tried to make a tag on a two-out rundown in the sixth inning before securing the ball in his glove. He dropped the sure out, allowing Ozzie Albies, who was hung up, to score to make it 3-0.

An inning later, Haniger, who started in center field for the first time this season to make room for Cruz, dropped a pop up, allowing Brandon Phillips to get to second. The next batter — Freeman — singled to center to score Phillips to make it 4-0.