OAKLAND, Calif. — Kendrys Morales usually does everything right for the Mariners, as long as it doesn’t involve running the bases.
And on Monday night, Morales was off and running, albeit more like a weekend jogger toward the final part of a first-to-third jaunt in which he was gunned down in embarrassing fashion. The baserunning gaffe, on a Justin Smoak single to right, and some other missed opportunities loomed large by the time this 2-1 loss to the Oakland Athletics ended on a Brandon Moss walkoff home run in the ninth off relief pitcher Carter Capps.
The Morales mistake, in which he failed to slide despite the imploring of third-base coach Daren Brown – who was shouting “Get down! Get down! Get down!’’ — wasn’t the biggest reason the Mariners took their major-league leading 10th walkoff loss this season. But it was a fitting symbol for why the Mariners keep on losing these games they are supposed to be learning how to win.
“You’re looking at a guy who throws pretty well,’’ Brown said of A’s right field Josh Reddick, who owns one of the strongest throwing arms in baseball. “We know Morales doesn’t run all that well. But that’s probably a ball where he should get to third. But I don’t think, really, that he was expecting to have to slide.’’
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After rounding second base, Morales slowed considerably in taking a look back over his shoulder at Reddick. Brown suggested Morales likely thought Reddick would merely concede the base and throw the ball to second.
With bullpen coach Jamie Navarro interpreting for him, Morales said that he never saw Brown signal him to slide and was surprised the ball made it there ahead of him.
“I didn’t realize it,’’ he said. “I didn’t know he was going to have a chance to throw to third. I was surprised about it. My main thing was thinking just to get to third.’’
But he went in standing up and was easy pickings as the Mariners squandered one of their better scoring chances all night. They would waste an even bigger one in the eighth when an error put runners at the corners with nobody out.
But A’s starter Jarrod Parker struck out Humberto Quintero, got Brad Miller to pop out foul to third base and then fanned Nick Franklin. Parker got the win when Moss went out and got a pretty good Capps offering down low, setting off a celebration by the announced crowd of 11,112 at the Coliseum.
The inability to score in that inning meant Mariners starter Aaron Harang was denied a shot at his first victory in a month. Harang allowed a run on five scattered hits over seven innings in the ballpark where he made his major-league debut for the A’s back in 2002.
Afterward, he said a mechanical tweak he made with pitching coach Carl Willis before his last start is now helping him spot his fastball better.
“My first step was getting a little big, so it was making me shift around a lot,’’ Harang said. “I wasn’t staying over my back leg, so I ended up throwing across my body and ultimately, it was affecting how I was locating pitches.’’
Harang had a better curveball this time as well, which helped keep the Mariners in this tight contest between two squads with their share of offensive issues.
Mariners interim manager Robby Thompson wasn’t pleased with the turn of events in the seventh and eighth innings on a night with few scoring chances by either team.
“We had three chances and felt pretty good about it,’’ he said of the first-and-third situation in the eighth. “We had to push a run across that inning and obviously we didn’t get the job done.’’
Geoff Baker: 206-464-8286 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
On Twitter @gbakermariners