Baseballs were crushed. Bats were flipped. Runs, so many, runs were scored. And smiles were everywhere early Thursday evening.
Another victory over the reeling Rangers and a three-game series sweep seemed like an inevitability with the only question being: How many runs would the Mariners win by?
The answer: They lost 8-6.
While no win is a guarantee in Major League Baseball even with a five-run lead in the first inning, the way the Mariners lost offered a reminder that they aren’t good enough to play poorly, fail to execute and still win games.
Interim manager Kristopher Negron used the word “uncharacteristic” to describe the mistakes and failed opportunities to add on runs multiple times.
The Mariners roughed up Rangers starter Taylor Hearn in the first inning, a reoccurring theme for his outings at T-Mobile Park, scoring five runs on a two-run homer from Ty France and a three-run homer from JP Crawford before even making an out.
Maybe a blowout victory wasn’t assured, but a comfortable win seemed viable if not likely.
But thanks to their own miscuses in the field, including three errors, and general sloppy play, the Mariners watched as that lead slowly dissipated over the next four innings, eventually turning into a one-run deficit.
A late comeback to tie the game in the eighth inning was immediately squandered when Drew Steckenrider gave up two runs in the top of the ninth and the Mariners couldn’t answer.
“We shouldn’t even have been in that spot in the first place,” Crawford said. “That’s all on me.”
On a night when he had swing-and-miss stuff with his changeup and off-speed pitches and an early lead, Marco Gonzales didn’t factor in the decision or even finish a gruesome fifth inning.
Texas answered with two runs in the second inning. Andy Ibanez doubled over Dylan Moore’s head in right field, allowing Nathaniel Lowe to score from first base. Eli White followed with a double to left field to score Ibanez.
Gonzales’ outing fell apart in the fifth when Crawford made two uncharacteristic errors. A throwing error on White’s ground ball put the leadoff runner on second base. He would later come around to score on Corey Seager’s sacrifice fly to left field. With two outs, Crawford misplayed a ground ball off the bat of Mitch Garver. Adolis Garcia followed with a double into the left field corner to score Garver to cut the lead to 5-4.
After a mound visit with pitching coach Pete Woodworth and catcher Tom Murphy, Gonzales fired a first-pitch cutter that Nick Solak ambushed and sent over the wall in the left field for a two-run homer and a 6-5 lead. When Lowe’s ground ball first bounced off the bag and over the head of Ty France for a double, Gonzales’ night was finished.
“I messed them up,” Crawford said. “We should’ve won today. Yeah, that game is on me. No one likes making errors. I should’ve made the plays. “
All four of the runs scored in the inning were unearned.
Gonzales exited the mound with a look of confused disappointment. How could it have gone so wrong? His final line: 4 2/3 innings pitched, six runs allowed, only two of them earned, with a walk and six strikeouts.
But he wouldn’t blame his teammates.
“I look at that as an opportunity to pick up our guys,” Gonzales said. “Certainly, these guys pick me up all year long. It’s a long season to be played and there’s gonna be a lot of that back and forth. But in those times, I take pride in being able to move forward and get us back in the dugout. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to do that. So I put that on myself to be able to continue to make pitches and unfortunately I couldn’t make that happen. “
Meanwhile, the offensive onslaught of the first inning devolved into a run of scoreless frames that featured strikeouts and stranded base runners.
It wasn’t until the eighth inning when the Mariners finally snapped out of their doldrums.
With two outs, Eugenio Suarez smacked a hard line drive to center field that bounced just in front of Garcia, allowing Adam Frazier to score from second base and tie the game at 6-6. But Seattle couldn’t push across the go-ahead run. After Crawford worked a walk to load the bases, Murphy struck out looking to end the inning.
The Mariners had seven hits and drew 10 walks. But they were 2-for-11 with runners in scoring position and stranded 12 baserunners.
Negron went to Steckenrider in the ninth. It was a logical move with Paul Sewald on the COVID injured list and Andres Munoz having thrown on Wednesday.
But Steckenrider, one of the Mariners best relievers in 2021, couldn’t keep the game tied.
He issued a two-out walk to Garcia and then gave up an RBI double to veteran left-handed hitter Kole Calhoun on a badly misplaced changeup that put the Rangers up a run. Lowe followed with a single to center that scored Calhoun for an insurance run.
Seattle’s rally hopes ended in the bottom of the ninth when Garcia made a brilliant diving catch on Julio Rodriguez’s deep shot to the left-center gap for the second out of the inning. Jarred Kelenic grounded out to end the game.