The Mariners led 5-1 before a rough outing by Moore and an error by Segura allowed the Angels to rally to a 6-5 victory.
Some losses hurt worse than others. Friday night was one of those losses.
The Mariners found out earlier in the day their star pitcher would miss a few weeks, and they blew a four-run lead, and they coughed up the winning run on a costly error from their shortstop, Jean Segura, who made an amazing stop the inning before. They also lost, 6-5, in front of 38,206 fans at Safeco Field, their second straight loss after returning home, once again, with momentum and excitement.
The Mariners (59-58) had a chance to claim the second wild card spot all to themselves had they won on Friday. Instead they’re trailing the Twins by half a game and are tied with the surging Angels.
L.A. Angels @ M’s, 6:10 p.m., ROOT
“We were in control of the game tonight,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said. “It just got away from us.”
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Reliever James Pazos allowed the winning run to score in the ninth inning after walking Mike Trout and giving up a single to Albert Pujols with one out. That’s when Segura made his error.
Angels first baseman C.J. Cron chopped a ball to Segura, who charged but nearly caught the ball on an in-between hop. It bounced off his glove and skidded into the outfield, allowing Trout to score to give the Angels a 6-5 lead.
Just the inning before, Segura had made the defensive play of the game (and probably one of the defensive plays of the day) when he fully extended to his left to make a diving stop, then fired to first to throw out the runner.
But the real problem inning for the Mariners was the seventh inning. That’s the inning they blew their 5-1 lead.
There were decisions that will likely be discussed and second-guessed after this one. The first: The decision by Servais to have a quick hook with starter Marco Gonzales with one out in the fifth inning. That move worked out. Reliever Emilio Pagan recorded the final two outs of the inning and stranded the two runners Gonzales left behind.
The second decision did not work out. Andrew Moore, the Mariners’ recently recalled rookie, replaced Pagan in the sixth inning, which he got through with no problem.
But in the seventh inning, after Moore had one runner on and two outs, he allowed five straight hitters to reach — and four runs to score. Pujols, Cron and Andrelton Simmons all drove in runs. Just like that, the Mariners’ 5-1 lead disappeared.
Moore said he had never pitched in relief before.
“But they gave me plenty of time out there,” Moore said. “That wasn’t the problem. It was just putting guys away with two strikes.”
Servais was asked after the game to explain his thought process on both moves.
First, the quick hook with Gonzales: “Where we’re at pitching-wise right now, you’re trying to put a plan together every night going into it. I thought Gonzales threw the ball really well. He was in a situation where we wanted to get him through the lineup twice. He was in a little trouble there in the fourth, and Pagan was our guy to get us out of trouble.”
As for the decision to stick with Moore in the seventh, Servais said he had a limited bullpen. Tony Zych, Casey Lawrence and Edwin Diaz were unavailable. Servais wanted to use Nick Vincent only in a save situation. And Pagan, who pitched 2/3 of an inning on Friday, had pitched 22/3 innings two days earlier.
“We were limited,” Servais said. “Coming into the ball game, we knew that Andrew Moore was going to pitching this game. Hopefully we had the lead; we did have the lead. We just didn’t execute pitches maybe the way we should have later in that inning to stop the bleeding.”
This is the reality facing the Mariners. Without Paxton, the Mariners don’t have a starter they can count on to go deep in a game, so Servais said he will have a quick hook and try to piece together games with his bullpen.
“There will be a lot of decisions made that you might scratch your head at,” Servais said. “But there is a plan behind it. Tonight I thought the plan was lined up right. We just didn’t get the last out there in the seventh inning.”
Overshadowed in the loss were the big hits that gave the Mariners’ that lead. Mike Zunino hit a two-run home run in the fifth inning to give the Mariners’ a 3-1 lead.
Nelson Cruz had a big night once again. He had two doubles and a home run — his eighth home run in his last 11 games.
For Cruz, the Mariners’ loss on Friday and their loss in the ninth inning on Thursday were games that came down to a play here or there.
“If we only made one play, if we made pitch, we’d be in a different situation,” Cruz said. “That’s the game that we play.”