The Mariners bounced back with a decisive 9-5 win, salvaging a split and putting them in line for a series win with James Paxton taking the mound on Sunday.
DETROIT — It made for a long day at the ballpark, but given how the Mariners lost Game 1 of the three-game series against the Tigers, perhaps it was a good thing they were able to play Game 2 just 30 minutes later.
Sure, the doubleheader Saturday due to a postponement Friday meant about six-plus hours of largely uninterrupted baseball with some physically and mentally drained bodies for both teams.
But for the Mariners, they washed away a frustrating 4-3 defeat in the opener in which they didn’t hit to their capabilities and didn’t know the difference between “was” or “wasn’t” over a phone line, by bouncing back with a decisive 9-5 victory in the nightcap.
The Mariners (22-16) salvaged a split on the day, putting them in line for a series victory with James Paxton taking the mound Sunday.
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“I think it helped,” said acting manager Manny Acta of the quick turnaround. “You have 30 minutes to grab a bite and get out there and forget about it rather than waiting two or three hours to analyze what happened or didn’t happen.”
A victory can cure plenty of discontent, no matter the defeat.
The frustration from Seattle’s one-run defeat in the opening game basically boiled down to the failure — twice — to get the third out in what turned into a three-run sixth inning.
With two outs and the scored tied 1-1, JaCoby Jones hit a ground ball to third base that Kyle Seager couldn’t backhand with his glove and instead struck his knee, bouncing into foul territory. A limping Seager was slow to get to the ball and Jones sprinted for second.
Grayson Greiner followed with a single into right field that scored Jones despite a good throw from Mitch Haniger and a close play at the plate, giving Detroit a 2-1 lead.
How close was it?
Well, replays seemed to show Mike Zunino actually tagged Jones on the foot before Jones touched home plate. It ran counter to the emphatic safe call by Scott Barry at home plate. But the Mariners, for some reason, didn’t challenge the play to see if it was the third out of the inning.
“We had a bit of miscommunication over the phone on that play at the plate,” said Acta, who was filling in for manager Scott Servais, who was away from the team for a family commitment. “But we aren’t going to blame the game on that one. It needed to be challenged after the fact when I saw it. But we had a miscommunication over the phone with the people who were involved in it. I’m not going to point fingers. We win and lose as a team.”
Acta’s last two sentences might be true and fair, but that’s not going to actually appease an angry fan base. What exactly happened, even without naming names?
“One (coach) calls in and the one in the video room answers and it was a misunderstanding about if he was out or he was safe,” Acta said. “Once that’s communicated with me then I communicate with the umpire. That’s the issue. It was a misunderstanding over the phone with the words ‘he was out’ or ‘he wasn’t out.’ ”
That hurt because the next batter — Jose Iglesias, who isn’t much of a power hitter — yanked a two-run homer to left off starter Marco Gonzales to make it 4-1 Detroit.
“It was a cutter,” Gonzales said. “I was trying to go backdoor with it. It had been great all day and he got a jump on it and it drifted back over the middle of the plate.”
Asked if he thought they should’ve challenged the play at the plate, an irritated Gonzales wouldn’t offer his opinion.
“That’s not my call,” he said. “It’s not my call. I’m just going to try and roll with it and move on to the next one.”
The Mariners answered with two runs in the top of the seventh, cutting the lead to one, but they would get no closer.
Gonzales wasn’t alone in his disappointment with the botched challenge call and the defeat.
“We were definitely frustrated,” first baseman Ryon Healy said. “We were getting loose for the second game in the cage and kind of venting a little bit. I think we all just came to the sense of flush it and move on. We had another game to play and went out there and performed.”
Unlike the first game, the Mariners had no shortage of offense in the nightcap, but it wasn’t until they broke open a 6-5 game with a three-run seventh that they felt secure.
Seager, who had three hits in the game, laced a two-run double to the gap in right-center and the hot-hitting Healy doubled down the left-field line to score Seager.
“That was an emotional game and you get kind of a little upset about it,” Seager said. “It can fuel your fire a little bit.”
With a four-run lead and a less than stellar start from Felix Hernandez (5-3), Acta got a lift from his bullpen, starting in the sixth.
James Pazos, Nick Vincent, Juan Nicasio and Dan Altavilla, who was activated from the disabled list before the game, each worked a scoreless inning.
Seattle knocked around Tigers’ ace Michael Fulmer for the early lead.
Nelson Cruz started it in the first inning with a run-scoring single, but it was a pair of homers that did most of the damage.
Healy smashed a two-run homer in the fourth for a 3-2 lead and Robinson Cano ended Fulmer’s night with one out in the fifth, sending a three-run laser into the right-field seats to make it 6-2.
Hernandez couldn’t keep the lead at four runs.
After getting two quick outs in the bottom half of the inning, Hernandez fell apart.
He gave up a soft single to James McCann and then served up a two-run homer to former Mariners prospect John Hicks, who went down and drove a low slider over the wall in left.
Hernandez then hit Jones with a pitch.
Jones later scored on Pete Kozma’s single to right.
It was an odd play as Jones appeared to slow up as third base coach Dave Clark was holding him. But seeing Haniger not get the ball in right away, Jones sprinted through the stop sign and scored.
It was not a good play for Haniger or the Mariners.
“My outing? Sucked,” Haniger said. “We won this game because of the offense, not because of me. I had nothing today.”