In a six-run first inning, the Mariners became the first team since the 1977 Cubs to commit five errors in one inning.
NEW YORK — They’ve lost games in a variety of ways. In the first week of the season, they blew a six-run lead in the bottom of ninth in Anaheim. They’ve had their starting pitchers pummeled by the Nationals, Twins and White Sox. They’ve been shutdown by sub-par pitchers like the Angels’ Ricky Nolasco and pitchers you’ve never heard of like Boston’s Brian Johnson and have twice been limited to one hit in a game.
The Mariners had dealt with defeat 64 times coming into Sunday — some losses more forgettable than others — but not one can come close to touching the new level of frustration, disappointment and poor performance in a largely self-inflicted 10-1 drubbing by Yankees on Sunday.
Yep, without a hint of hyperbole, you can label it the worst loss of the season for Seattle, which dropped to 66-65 on the season and 2-5 vs. Yankees.
What made it so bad?
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Well, it was due to the fiesta of miscues in a six-run first inning that set a record for futility. Would you say they made a plethora of errors?
Yes, they made a total of five in the inning, though a Yankees official was lobbying the official scorer to change one of them to a hit, which was an absurd premise and trying to ruin team history.
Per the Elias Sports Bureau, the last team to commit five errors in an inning was the 1977 Chicago Cubs. Per the Mariners baseball information staff and their records that date back to 1984, the record had been four errors in one inning.
“There were a lot of unforced errors,” manager Scott Servais said. “Defense? Obviously we weren’t ready to get after it in the first inning. You make five errors against a quality club, there is no way to overcome that.”
For an organization that has prided itself on improved run prevention this season, it was an unacceptable performance that reeked of lack of focus and unpreparedness.
Is there reason for it?
Perhaps, the ninth game of a 12-game road trip provided some level of mental and physical fatigue. Still, no fan wants to hear excuses following a showing like that.
“It was obviously the worst inning we’ve had all year,” Servais said. “Embarrassing.”
The Mariners went into the bottom of the first with a 1-0 lead following Nelson Cruz’s RBI double off of Yankees starter Masashiro Tanaka. For a brief moment, the possibility of victory and a series win could enter the Mariners’ minds. When the bottom of the first came to end, that had been crushed under an avalanche of mistakes.
Starter Andrew Albers had to endure it all. After retiring Aaron Hicks with a soft pop up to start the game, things went horribly awry.
Starlin Castro doubled over the head of Mitch Haniger, who got an awkward read on the ball.
That was followed by the first of the errors. It came on Gary Sanchez’s RBI single to left field that scored Castro with ease. The ball got under the glove of Ben Gamel, which allowed Sanchez to advance second.
“I thought it was going to pop up on me, but it stayed down and I came up,” Gamel said.
After walking Aaron Judge, Albers got Didi Gregorius to hit a soft pop up into shallow left field. Gamel, Guillermo Heredia and Jean Segura all closed on the ball. The ball landed the closest to Segura, who had set his feet, raised his glove and then just missed it. The catchable ball was first called a hit and then later correctly changed to an error. But Segura said he heard Heredia call him off.
“He called it,” Segura said. “I don’t know why they gave the error to me. As soon as I heard him say, ‘I got it,’ I froze. I don’t know what the situation was there. If he doesn’t call it, I would keep going on the pop up.”
With bases loaded, Chase Headley hit a groundball to Kyle Seager at third. He seemed unsure of whether to step on third or try to fire to second to start a double play. Instead, he dropped the ball out of his glove instead, allowing a run to score and giving the Mariners their third error.
“I caught it on a bit of a tweener,” Seager said. “My first thought was going to second with it. When I couldn’t get it out of my glove cleanly, I figured — take a few steps, touch third and then go to first. And I didn’t do either one of them.”
Albers got a brief reprieve when he struck out Todd Frazier for the second out of the inning.
But with two outs, Jacoby Ellsbury hit a line drive to the gap in left-center. Gamel cut it off and fired to Segura as the cutoff man. But Segura bobbled the ball, allowing a run to score. And then trying to make up for it, he fired a wild throw to home that got past catcher Mike Zunino, allowing Ellsbury to move to third. Segura was charged with two errors on one play to give Seattle five in the frame.
Albers gave up another RBI single Ronald Torreyes to make it 6-1 before finally retiring Hicks for the second time in the inning for the third out. He threw 39 pitches in the frame while the Yankees had scored six runs — five of them unearned.
“Definitely not a good a inning, definitely not a good start to a game,” Seager said. “Albers deserved better than we did for him. It was a bad inning. We didn’t play defense at all. Hitting comes and goes, but defense is something that always has to be there and we did a very, very bad job of it today.”
There was really no place for the Mariners to go from there. Sure there were eight innings to try and come back. And they even put a little bit of traffic on the bases against Tanaka. But the veteran right-hander, using the cushion to his advantage worked out of minor jams without allowing a run.
Tanaka pitched seven innings, allowing the one run on six hits with a walk and 10 strikeouts to improve to 10-10 on the season. For his career against the Mariners, Tanaka is 6-0 with a 2.34 ERA with 54 strikeouts and five walks in seven starts vs. the Mariners. He’s pitched seven innings in six of those seven starts.
Albers worked five innings, giving up eight runs — only three earned — on 11 hits with two walks and four strikeouts. After the first inning escapades and with no long reliever in the bullpen, he just tried to “wear it” and get as far in the game as possible.
“That’s not how you want to make your debut at Yankee Stadium,” he said. “I wish I could have made one more big pitch to get us out of that first inning and keep us in it.”
He pointed to the first-pitch slider that Ellsbury hit into left field with two outs.
“With everything that happened, we were one pitch away from being out of that and down one run and still be right in the game,” he said. “Unfortunately, Ellsbury put a good swing on a slider that I left up just a little bit and the floodgates opened.”