Mitch Haniger slides but can’t catch a key fly ball in a disastrous sixth inning and the Mariners lose 7-5 at Safeco Field.
It all turned on what looked like a rather harmless flare to shallow right field. Sixth inning, two outs, bases loaded — and Astros pinch-hitter Evan Gattis floated a fly ball to right field.
Mitch Haniger, the Mariners’ right fielder, charged, slid, extended his arm to make the catch and watched as the ball bounced off his glove. Three runs scored.
That was the moment the Mariners went from up (by one run) to down (by two runs), and it was the moment that highlighted the Mariners’ 7-5 loss on Tuesday in front of 18,527 people at Safeco Field.
Houston @ Mariners, 7:10 p.m., ROOT Sports
The Mariners are 2-7 this season and in last place in the American League West.
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Haniger’s botched attempt wasn’t ruled an error, but it led directly to three runs scoring and allowed for another run to score later in the sixth inning. It was certainly the turning point.
Before the game, the Mariners placed shortstop and leadoff hitter Jean Segura on the 10-day disabled list. That meant left fielder Jarrod Dyson assumed leadoff duties on Tuesday, and Mariners manager Scott Servais hoped the move would “jump-start” the struggling Dyson.
For Servais, the issue was more than just getting a slumping hitter on track.
“You see what we’re like when he’s on the bases,” Servais said. “We’re a different team.”
In the third inning, Dyson dribbled a swinging bunt halfway between the catcher and pitcher. Ordinarily, it would have been a routine out — the third out of the inning, actually. But Dyson possesses extraordinary speed, and he beat the throw to first. (The throw sailed across the basepath and caused Astros first baseman Yuli Gurriel to collide with Dyson. Trainers visited both players, and both stayed in the game).
The very next batter, Haniger, ripped a double off the left-field wall.
Dyson nearly came to a complete stop rounding third, but he took off again when the throw went to second instead. He slid across home plate headfirst (and without his helmet) just before the tag. It was the kind of manufactured run Dyson’s speed can help ignite: an infield single to keep the inning alive, a glitch in baserunning, but the speed to create chaos on the bases.
Robinson Cano followed that play with an RBI single, and just like that the Mariners tied the game at 2-2.
Dyson delivered another big moment in the fifth, when he lined a sacrifice fly to right field to score Carlos Ruiz. That gave the Mariners a 3-2 lead.
And that’s about when the problems started.
Mariners starter Ariel Miranda, who gave up a homer on the first pitch of the game but otherwise settled down, walked two batters with two outs — his first and only walks of the game. That ended his night.
Reliever James Pazos loaded the bases with a single. He then got Gattis to float a fly ball to right field. Haniger charged and slid to make the catch. But the ball bounced off his glove and rolled away, allowing three runs to score. Miranda briefly put his hands on his head in the dugout.
Pazos gave up two more hits and one more run before he, too, was pulled from the game with the Mariners trailing 6-3.
The Mariners had a chance to strike right back but squandered it. Nelson Cruz led off the sixth inning with a single and Kyle Seager crushed a line drive off the wall in right field. Cruz advanced to third, and Seager aggressively rounded first, like he was headed for a double. But he realized the throw was way ahead of him, turned back to first and was tagged out after being caught in a run down.
Danny Valencia struck out, and Leonys Martin flew out to the warning track, leaving Cruz stranded at third.