Domingo Santana did not move. Not even a courtesy trot. He didn’t turn his head and marvel at the baseball Matt Olson deposited deep into the right field seats at T-Mobile Park. He remained perfectly still, a living statue, as if ignoring the three-run homer would make it magically disappear.
It did not. Mariners opener Matt Carasiti surrendered five runs (four earned), four hits, a walk, a wild pitch and the aforementioned home run while registering a single out in the first inning of the Oakland Athletics’ 7-4 victory Sunday.
“If you go through that whole inning, stuff was falling,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said. “It was the walk. Somewhere in the middle there’s always a walk. You have to stay aggressive, and that led into the Olson three-run homer. We really couldn’t stop it after that.”
Even after Carasiti was mercifully removed, it did not stop. With runners on first and third, Wade LeBlanc’s first pitch to third baseman Chad Pinder was laced to left field for a clean single. Outfielder Dylan Moore — in true 2019 Mariners fashion — allowed the ball to trickle through his legs and run to the wall, scoring two more A’s.
By the time the top of the first inning ended — after nine batters, five hits, two pitchers, one error and 34 total pitches — five runs had been scored.
In retrospect, it’s hard to blame Santana for not wanting to watch.
And things got worse before they got better. Oakland shortstop Marcus Semien led off the second inning with a solo homer to left field.
But that’s when Mariners catcher Omar Narvaez got going. The 27-year-old Seattle backstop produced a hit and an RBI in each of his first four at-bats Sunday. He launched solo homers in the second and eighth innings and added run-scoring singles in the fourth and sixth.
It was the first multi-homer game of Narvaez’s career — and likely not the last.
“Omar can really hit,” Servais said. “He’s certainly earned everybody’s respect in the batter’s box there, and he makes good adjustments. We see him take balls the other way. He’s a really good low-ball hitter, and he can get the ball in the air. Really good first half by him. We’ve seen more power than we were expecting. There’s a lot of positives there offensively for Omar.”
Added Narvaez: “Honestly, I was not trying to do too much. I was trying to keep it simple, hit the ball … and everything happened.”
Unfortunately, everything didn’t happen for anybody else. Seattle failed to adequately support LeBlanc, who entered the game with a 3-0 record and a 3.31 ERA in six relief appearances behind a Mariners opener this season. (Consider, by comparison, that LeBlanc is 2-2 with a 6.99 ERA in six starts.) The 34-year-old veteran left-hander surrendered just three hits and one earned run in 6.2 innings Sunday. In his past 18 innings, LeBlanc has allowed 12 hits and three earned runs.
But, if you’re trying to pinpoint his progress, LeBlanc said that the opener isn’t everything.
“I think most of the time I’m facing (opposing teams’ best hitters) three times anyway. It’s just a little later in the ballgame, I guess,” LeBlanc said. “But give me the ball, I’ll throw it. If you tell me I’m done, I’m done. That’s my job.”
LeBlanc did his job. But when he left, Oakland pounced. Center fielder Ramon Laureano took a hanging 85 mph slider from Mariners reliever Matt Wisler and (allegedly) wrapped a solo homer around the foul pole in left field to extend the lead to 7-3 in the eighth inning.
In the box score, it’ll count as a homer.
But Servais considers it an unacceptable mistake.
“Yeah, that’s a horrible call,” he said. “I know replay was put in for really two reasons — the catch if guys are diving for balls, and the boundary calls. That should not be missed. On the field it’s tough. I get it. But when you look at it on replay, that should not be missed. That’s a bad call.”
For the middling Mariners, the calls never came, and Narvaez’s offense wasn’t enough. After he struck out swinging for the third time in the bottom of the eighth inning, all-star designated hitter Daniel Vogelbach turned, spit out his gum and angrily walloped it with his bat.
It was the best contact he made all day.