NEW YORK — When the disappointment of seeing your bullpen unable to maintain a pair of leads and give-up a walk-off hit to lose the game in extra innings isn’t quite as a painful as your offense failing to score more than two runs against a team making a bullpen start, well, you have how the Mariners spent their Friday night at Yankee Stadium.
Brett Gardner’s line-drive single to center field off Keynan Middleton was enough to score Joey Gallo from second base and give the Yankees a 3-2 walk-off win over the Mariners in 11 innings.
“A lot went on in that ballgame, that’s for sure,” manager Scott Servais said. “We’ve been so good in closing out these extra inning games. You need some things to go your way, it didn’t happen tonight. You have to give them credit. It’s tough to beat them here in this ballpark and close them out. When you’re down to your final out like that, it’s a tough one to swallow.”
The Mariners have now lost three straight games, including the first two to the Yankees in this four-game series. In those three losses, they’ve scored three runs or fewer in each game and are 9-36 in games with three runs or fewer scored this season.
Seattle is now 3-5 on the road trip and dropped to 58-53 on the season — three games behind the Yankees in American League wild card race.
The Mariners have just three losses in 13 extra innings games this season with two of them coming on this road trip.
Over the course of a four-hour, 16-minute game, the Yankees rolled out nine different relievers with starter Jordan Montgomery on the COVID injured list. That collection of largely unknown hurlers who even a die-hard Yankee fan might not recognize, held the Mariners to two runs despite allowing a combined nine hits. It helped that the cadre of relievers issued just one walk and struck out nine batters. The Mariners couldn’t get the big hit, going two for eight with runners in scoring position while leaving nine runners on base.
“They’ve got very talented guys in their bullpen and maybe some names you haven’t heard of,” Servais said. “But I think you saw it as they kept bringing guys. We made them all work tonight. I don’t think we had too many easy innings for them. But getting those big hits to try to create a little of separation, it was just not enough offensively. The at-bats were good. Some nights it happens, some nights it doesn’t.”
All three Yankee runs were scored against Seattle’s bullpen, which has looked a little less dominant on this road trip.
Diego Castillo’s short time with the Mariners has been interesting if not dominating. With the Mariners clinging to a 1-0 lead going into the eighth inning and the Yankees top of the order looming after expected pinch-hitter Brett Gardner, batting in the ninth spot, would lead off the inning, Servais went to his closer.
“That’s the spot that we talked about — putting our best guy who was available tonight,” Servais said. “Obviously Paul Sewald was not available tonight. Diego has the track record and history (of success). “
The thinking was logical; the pitching was suboptimal.
Castillo got up 0-2 quickly on Gardner with two sinkers. He then fired three straight balls — none of them close to the zone — to push the count full. Gardner fouled off a borderline slider and watched another slider in the dirt to draw a leadoff walk. Castillo then walked D.J. LeMahieu on six pitches after falling behind 3-0. A misplaced Castillo sinker that hit Anthony Rizzo in the leg loaded the bases with no outs.
“Gardner, he’s a little pesky pain in the butt is what he is,” Servais said. “He’s hard to get out. Late in the game, he knows he’s got a small strike zone, and he ends up getting the walk. Diego really couldn’t find it there for a few hitters.”
The Mariners have lived this sort of relief appearance far too often in the past.
Aaron Judge tied the game, jumping on a slider and hitting a top spin line-drive to left field that Dylan Morse was able to catch for the first out. Gardner tagged up and scored with ease.
The inning ending moments later when Giancarlo Stanton hit a groundball to shortstop that J.P. Crawford turned into an inning-ending double play.
While the lead was lost, it could have been much worse for the Mariners.
“He hung in there and got the big outs and the big double play ball when we needed it to keep the game right there,” Servais said. “That’s the spot for him to pitch in, and he just didn’t quite have it tonight. Fortunately it was only one run.”
Right-hander Drew Steckenrider kept the game tied and sent it to the 10th inning, working around a one-out double from Gleyber Torres by getting Kyle Higashioka and Gardner to pop out.
Seattle grabbed another one-run lead in the 10th when Crawford led off with a single to right field, scoring the designated runner Tom Murphy from second. But the inning got shortened when Crawford was thrown out at second on a swinging strike three from Mitch Haniger.
Again the bullpen couldn’t hold the lead as Erik Swanson gave up a bloop two-out single to Stanton that tied the game at 2-2.
If there were any solace in the loss, it’s the hope that Marco Gonzales has found the pitcher that was so consistently good in 2019 and 2020.
Gonzales delivered his best outing of the season on baseball’s biggest stage and a boisterous crowd of 43,180 in attendance. Given the smallest amount of run support possible in the sixth inning, which was still better than the no-run support that he had in the first five innings, the leader of the Mariners pitching staff kept the hulking homer-hitting Yankees lineup in check.
“We had a great game plan going in,” Gonzales said. “I felt really great about our strategy and the process today. We just executed it plain and simple. We stuck to what we know best, and we didn’t give in, even in some tough spots.”
He worked 6 2/3 shutout innings, allowing three hits with two walks and five strikeouts. The 108th and final pitch of his outing was a perfectly placed changeup that Rougned Odor swung at and got a piece of, sending a foul tip into the glove of Cal Raleigh, who then tried to throw out Gleyber Torres at second on a stolen base attempt. The throw was just a little late and couldn’t be handled cleanly for the tag.
Not wanting to push Gonzales, who missed a month earlier in the season with a forearm strain, Servais went to veteran right-hander Joe Smith to get the final out of the seventh with the tying run on second. Smith did just that, coaxing a weak groundout to third from catcher Kyle Higashioka.
“That’s the best outing for me that he’s had all year,” Servais said of Gonzales. “I thought he was really sharp, executing his pitches. Obviously, he got deep in the ballgame, got some huge outs there in the six and into the seventh inning. Really happy with the way he threw the ball tonight, he left it all out there.”