ANAHEIM, Calif. — A defeat with the potential for a greater loss.
About six hours before the Mariners’ hopes of yet another improbable late-inning victory ended with their 27th out — J.P. Crawford’s hard line out to right field — and an 8-7 loss to the Angels, manager Scott Servais talked about the importance of keeping his team healthy in the final 20 games of the regular season, knowing a key injury could hinder the magic of this season.
So when the Mariners’ most durable player, third baseman Eugenio Suarez, walked off the field Friday night between the top and bottom of the fifth inning because of a right index finger injury, the ashen look on Servais’ face was palpable.
“Not the way we wanted to start this road trip,” Servais said with forced humor.
Initial X-rays on Suarez’s finger were inconclusive. He will get more X-rays and likely an MRI on Saturday.
“It’s very concerning,” Servais said post-game. “We’ll get a better idea in the morning.”
The injury occurred in the fourth inning on Luis Rengifo’s hard-hit ground ball to third base. Suarez said the ball took a bad hop, skipped up and hit the tip of his index finger as he tried to field it. He was able to make the throw to first base, but the finger continued to swell in the dugout.
The first evidence of the injury came in the top of the fifth with Suarez at the plate. With two outs and Ty France on first, Suarez winced on a swing and miss on a first-pitch slider. Later he swung at a 2-1 slider, hitting a fly ball to right field. Upon making contact with the ball, Suarez grabbed his hand and grimaced in pain.
“It started feeling uncomfortable in my at-bat,” he said. “It was swelling, and I wasn’t able to grip my bat 100%. It bothered me a lot.”
Suarez went out to his position between innings and tried to warm up to see whether he could remain in the game, but he was clearly in pain when trying to throw to first base.
“The swelling made throwing uncomfortable, and that’s why I came out of the game,” he said.
Suarez, who has played in 142 of the Mariners’ 143 games, has been one of the hottest hitters in baseball. He has hit six homers over his past six games and leads the Mariners with 31 homers for the season.
Since Aug. 1, a span of 39 games, Suarez has posted a .977 OPS, batting .250 with 25 runs, four doubles, a triple, 15 home runs, 32 RBI and 19 walks. The 15 homers are tied with New York’s Aaron Judge for most in that span.
“It’s frustrating,” he said. “I want to be there to help my team and help the guys that believe in me. I want to play everyday. Hopefully, I will be back soon.”
The game started off with potential, hope and a Julio homer.
Julio Rodriguez continued his torment of opposing pitchers facing their first hitter of the game. Angels starter Michael Lorenzen left a 1-1 slider over the plate and Rodriguez turned it into a leadoff homer just over the wall in left field. It was the fifth leadoff homer of the season for Rodriguez and his 27th homer of the season.
Mike Trout, the only rookie to hit 30 homers and steal 30 bases in a season, stood in center field and watched the Mariners’ young star, who is three homers and five steals away from matching the feat.
But things turned ugly almost immediately for starter Robbie Ray, who didn’t have particularly pinpoint command and got minimal help from his defense.
Luis Rengifo led off the game with a ground ball up the middle that hit off the second-base bag just as Adam Frazier was about to field it. The ball skipped into the outfield and got past Rodriguez for an error, allowing Rengifo to move to third.
Ray came back to get Trout on a pop out to right, but left fielder Jesse Winker lost Shohei Ohtani’s high pop fly to shallow left field in the gloaming and it dropped in for a double.
“Before it gets dark here, it’s tough to see,” Servais said. “Our guys were concerned about it in the first inning and sure enough they hit a couple of balls up there and we don’t get to it.”
Taylor Ward took advantage of a 3-0 count and ripped a single into left field to score both runners for a 2-1 lead.
The Angels added two more runs to their lead in the fourth inning. Rengifo led off the inning with a solo homer to left field. With two outs, Ward doubled over Winker’s head in left field and scored on Matt Duffy’s single to center.
As they’ve done so often this season, the Mariners fought their way back into the game. Suarez worked a leadoff walk and Carlos Santana smashed his 16th homer of the season — a laser over the wall in right field to cut the lead to 4-3.
But Trout, who didn’t play in the previous series vs. the Mariners at T-Mobile Park because of a back injury, offered an unnecessary reminder of his dominance against the Mariners. Trout smoked a leadoff homer to start the fifth. It was his 54th career homer vs. Seattle. Ray would make it through the fifth inning, but his night was done at 90 pitches. He allowed five runs on eight hits with a walk and five strikeouts.
“The last couple (starts), I feel like I’ve been laboring a little too much and throwing too many pitches,” Ray said. “It’s not necessarily walking guys, but just not being able to put guys away or getting them to hit it at somebody. So I just need to be a little better.”
The Angels pushed the lead to 8-4 in the sixth inning. Matt Festa, who replaced Ray, walked the first batter of the inning, allowed a one-out single and served up a three-run bomb to Rengifo.
Believers in their ability to manufacture impossible comebacks, the Mariners chipped away at the lead against the beleaguered Angels bullpen.
Sam Haggerty delivered a pinch-hit RBI single in the sixth inning and Ty France launched a two-run homer in the seventh. But a big scoring opportunity was negated later in the seventh inning. The Mariners loaded the bases with one out, but the Angels were able to turn a quick 5-4-3 double play on the ultra speedy Haggerty to end the inning.
The Mariners cut the lead to 8-7 in the ninth when Santana smashed a solo homer to right off Ryan Tepera. But Tepera struck out Winker and got Crawford to line out to end the game.
“Nineteen games to go, you’re not gonna win every one,” Servais said. “We are better than the way we played tonight. We know that. But really, we did do a lot of good things offensively, and we will continue to do that in this series.”
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