The frustration couldn’t be hidden from their faces. The disappointment could be felt with every tossed bat and spiked helmet in disgust. The belief that they would come back had a time limit. And with every wasted opportunity, the anxiety grew threefold in the stands packed full with fans waiting to explode for just one big hit, one game-changing moment and that memorable and much-needed victory.
That explosion never came.
Instead, the Mariners, who reveled in playing close games and finding their way to one-run victories, lost the type of game they’ve won so many times to put them in position to play for the postseason on the final weekend of the season.
The late-inning comeback that 44,169 fans in the sellout crowd anxiously awaited to happen never came together Friday night. Instead, they felt the stinging disappointment of the Mariners’ crushing 2-1 loss to the Angels.
“What an environment tonight, just an awesome setting,” manager Scott Servais said. “T-Mobile was rocking. Unfortunately, we just didn’t get enough going offensively for it to turn our way tonight. We have played that game so many times this year, it’s incredible. When we’re in that type of game, we’ve just had a knack of coming up with the big hit, creating havoc out there on the bases and getting enough action to push across a run. It just didn’t happen tonight.”
The Mariners’ postseason dream just got a little more difficult to realize on their own.
“We are where we are,” Servais said. “We’re at the moment of truth. Tomorrow’s game is a big one, obviously, and we’re going to need some help here.”
The Mariners (89-71) came into Friday tied with the Red Sox for the second wild-card spot with the simple situation — win every game and they would do no worse than playing in a game No. 163 Monday in Boston to get into the wild-card game.
By the first inning, they knew the Red Sox (90-70) had beaten the Nationals and the Blue Jays (89-71) had defeated the Orioles. They also saw the Yankees lost to the Rays, leaving a slim hope they could steal the first wild-card spot and host the game.
But with the loss, they need to win their last two games of the season and hope for some help from the Nationals and Orioles.
The ninth inning summed up the evening. Kyle Seager led off with a double to right field off Angels closer Raisel Iglesias. It was his first hit of the six-game homestand and brought the crowd to its feet as hope and anticipation began to build. But Iglesias retired the next three hitters to hand Seattle just its third defeat in 14 games.
For the game, the Mariners went 0-7 with runners in scoring position and left six runners on base.
“It’s quiet tonight,” Servais said of the clubhouse. “It should be quiet. Guys are disappointed. We feel like we let one slip away a little bit that we should have had.”
In a season where they’ve been resilient and resistant to being written off, this collection of players has shown the ability to bounce back from crushing losses. Being able to move past disappointment quickly is a trait they feel is key to their success.
“We’ve come too far at this point to change who we are and the character that we have in this clubhouse,” Friday’s starter, Marco Gonzales, said. “These are my brothers, my family in here, and I know that we’re going to come out with some fire tomorrow for sure.”
In a game they can’t lose, the Mariners will quickly forget the loss that put them in this position.
“I wouldn’t doubt us,” Gonzales said. “This is a group that has strong belief in each other, belief in themselves, belief in the work they put in, and that’s not changing now.”
The Mariners got a “quality start” from Gonzales, who pitched six innings, allowing two runs on three hits with two walks (one intentional) and five strikeouts.
The two runs allowed came in the top of the third after his teammates had given him a 1-0 lead off Angels starter Jose Suarez.
With two outs, Abraham Toro singled up the middle. Rookie Jarred Kelenic, who made a passionate request for fans to come out for the series in his postgame interview Wednesday, brought the packed house to its feet, sending a one-hopper off the wall in right field.
With the ball not coming off the wall cleanly to right fielder Juan Lagares, Mariners third base coach Manny Acta waved Torrens home as second baseman David Fletcher received the cutoff throw in shallow right field. It was a calculated risk knowing that Fletcher’s arm isn’t strong and isn’t accurate from distance. The decision proved wise as Fletcher’s throw did arrive before Toro but was well up the third baseline making a play at the plate impossible.
But Gonzales couldn’t make the minimal lead hold up. He allowed a leadoff single to Luis Rengifo to start the third and then walked David Fletcher. Both runners would score when Brandon Marsh hit a fly ball to left-center that was just out of the reach of left fielder Dylan Moore. It went for a two-run double. After an intentional walk to Shohei Ohtani, Gonzales got out of the inning, getting Phil Gosselin to fly out to center and Kurt Suzuki to hit into an inning-ending 6-4-3 double play.
Gonzales allowed just one more runner on an infield single the rest of the way.
But the Mariners did nothing else besides the one run against Suarez in his five innings of work. He allowed just three total hits with two walks and five strikeouts.
Down 2-1 going into the seventh inning. Luis Torrens hit a high fly ball into the right field corner off reliever Michael Mayers. The ball was near the top of the wall, and it couldn’t be gloved by Juan Lagares on his leaping attempt. It instead turned into a leadoff triple for the not-so-quick Torrens.
Abraham Toro then won a nine-pitch battle to work a walk, giving Seattle runners on first and second with no outs. The runners never left their spots on base.
With Kelenic coming to the plate, Angels manager Joe Maddon called on hard-throwing lefty Jose Quijada to replace Mayers.
Quijada struck out Kelenic on a 3-2 95-mph fastball out of the zone, struck out Tom Murphy swinging on a similar fastball at the top of the zone and then froze Dylan Moore with a called third strike that might have been on the corner of the plate.