Seven runs should be enough.
Under most circumstances in Major League Baseball, scoring that many runs should result in a victory. Coming into Wednesday, a team had scored seven runs or more in 386 major league games this season. Only 48 of those times did a team lose a game while scoring at least that many runs.
The Mariners scored seven-plus runs for the 15th time this season and lost for the third with Wednesday afternoon’s 8-7 loss to the Rangers. The shortcomings and failures of their defense and the unpredictability of a bullpen filled with largely unknown and unwanted relievers made their outburst of offense irrelevant in another defeat — their ninth in their past 11 games.
Asdrubal Cabrera’s two-out RBI double in the top of the ninth off reliever Anthony Bass broke a 7-7 tie and proved to be the game-winning run.
Seattle got the tying and winning run on base in the bottom of the ninth when Daniel Vogelbach led off with a single and Edwin Encarnacion worked a walk off Shawn Kelley. But Domingo Santana struck out and Kyle Seager grounded into a game-ending double play.
Since beating the Rangers in back-to-back games on April 25-26 to improve to 18-11, the Mariners have gone 6-23 to fall to 24-33 on the season, including losing seven of their past eight against Texas.
“Interesting afternoon game that went back and forth,” manager Scott Servais said. “I thought we were in pretty good shape. We had a two-run lead with six outs to go and we couldn’t lock it down. We didn’t execute some pitches late and again, as we’ve talked about a lot this year, the defense reared its ugly head a couple of times.”
The defense and bullpen weren’t expected to be strengths this season. But they’ve been more than just weaknesses, they’ve been season killers.
Not all defensive miscues are based on errors or unearned runs, though the Mariners did manage to add to their league leading totals in both. They committed three errors in the sixth inning — all from the pitching position — for two unearned runs. Seattle now has 63 errors on the season and 53 unearned runs.
As Servais said, the Mariners grabbed a 7-5 lead in the bottom of the sixth on Mallex Smith’s RBI triple and Mitch Haniger’s two-run homer of the foul pole in left field. Right-hander Austin Adams held the Rangers scoreless in the seventh to keep the lead at two runs. Six outs were needed with even a bit of a cushion.
But lefty Roenis Elias, who had been one of the Mariners better relievers early in the season, delivered a fourth straight clunker of an outing, giving up two runs on two hits with a walk and getting just two outs before being pulled. Pinch-hitter Shin Soo-Choo delivered the crushing hit — a two-run single to right that tied the game.
After an impressive 2 1/3-inning save vs the A’s on March 14 — the last time the Mariners won two games in a row — Elias has made four appearances, pitching a total of 3 1/3 innings, allowing seven runs (five earned) on nine hits and three walks.
“The first couple of the months he’d been our most consistent guy,” Servais said. “The last few times out it’s been a little rough for him. He hasn’t had a great secondary pitch and the fastball has been just OK, but not maybe the same life on it. He’s been throwing strikes, but didn’t have enough to put an end to it.”
The defense didn’t allow the game to remain tied in the eighth inning. Right-hander Bass picked up two quick outs and seemed to have a third when Nomar Mazara lofted a fly ball to left field. It wasn’t hit particularly hard and Mazara had basically stopped running on the play near first base assuming it would be caught.
But Santana got a slow jump off the bat and then took a meandering path to the ball. He came up about six inches short of catching it. The ball bounced off the wall and Mazara resumed running to get a double. Either an average jump or a normal route and that’s a routine out. Instead, the missed play set up Cabrera’s game-winning hit.
“It was up in the air a while and the ball was slicing away from him, but we are trying to stay away from the double there and keep them out of scoring position and he didn’t get to it,” Servais said. “It was not a great route to it. It’s a play that he’d agree he probably should make.”
The beginning of Mariners lefty Wade LeBlanc’s start was less than ideal. He gave up back-to-back singles to start the game. With one out, the awkward and energetic Hunter Pence smoked a triple into the gap in left-center to score both runners with ease. Cabrera later added an RBI single to give the Rangers a 3-0 lead before the Mariners even got to think about hitting.
“Aggressive team not letting you settle in and that’s what a lot of teams are doing now,” LeBlanc said. “I have to do a better job of getting into rhythm earlier.”
But LeBlanc was able to right his shaky start, pitching the next four innings and allowing his teammates to take a 4-3 lead.
Seattle picked up its first run in third inning. Shed Long led off with a double and scored on Mallex Smith’s single to right.
An inning later, the Mariners grabbed the lead. Tim Beckham, who was starting in place of the inured J.P. Crawford, hit his 10th homer of the season — a two-run dinger — that just cleared the wall in right field to tie the score. Later in the inning with the bases loaded, Haniger, who had struck out in his previous two at-bats, hit a ground ball fielders’ choice to score a run and a 4-3 lead.
The Rangers answered with two unearned runs in the sixth inning to retake the lead, using three errors by Mariners pitchers in one inning to score two runs. LeBlanc’s replacement, Jesse Biddle, committed two errors on one play — misplaying a one-out comebacker and then unwisely trying to throw to first, which went awry.
Seattle showed some resolve and retook the lead in the bottom of the inning. Long drew a walk and scored on Smith’s triple to the gap in left-center. Haniger followed with a two-run homer off the foul pole in left field to make it 7-5.
Long had a pair of doubles and walked twice while Smith continued his torrid stretch with two more hits. He has four multi-hit games in his past eight games.