A fielding error by Dee Gordon in the top of the ninth allowed the game-winning run to score.
On a night where they immediately answered every run scored by the Giants, the Mariners couldn’t do it when the game’s final outcome hinged on success or failure in the bottom of the ninth.
Perhaps it was the galling series of events that led to a one-run lead going into the bottom of the ninth inning that just couldn’t be overcome or evened one more time on Tuesday night in a 4-3 loss at a packed and very Giants-friendly Safeco Field.
After looking lost for much of the at-bat against Mariners closer Edwin Diaz, pinch hitter Pablo Sandoval hit a dribbler of a ground ball to the right side of the infield. It was just slow enough to make it a close play at first base despite Sandoval’s lack of speed. Second baseman Dee Gordon, who was playing deep with two outs, sprinted toward the ball, picked it up barehand and tried to flip the ball to first baseman Ryon Healy. Just getting there was an impressive feat of Gordon’s athleticism.
But Healy had come off the base thinking there wasn’t a play at first base and motioned for Gordon to look toward home to prevent Steve Duggar, who had been on second base, from scoring. Gordon’s throw to Healy bounced off his glove and into foul territory. Duggar raced home with the go-ahead run.
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“It’s a tough play,” Servais said. “Everybody knows Dee is going to go all-out and do everything he can to make that out. Ball gets away and they score the winning run.”
Should Gordon have just held the ball in the situation?
“There’s a lot that plays into it,” Servais said. “Sandoval is not a fast runner and Dee is playing very deep. We know Dee is an extraordinary athlete. He can cover ground and is trying to make the tough play. Healy came off the bag and said hold it, hold it, instead of staying on the bag. If Healy catches the ball, it’s first and third and we go get the next hitter. Guys are busting their butt and trying to make a play at the end of the game. You can’t fault anybody for that.”
Diaz didn’t blame anyone.
“It was a good pitch,” he said. “Dee tried to do his best. But it was just bad luck for us.”
Bad luck and one run were enough. Diaz struck out Brandon Belt to end the ninth, but the Mariners went down 1-2-3 against lefty Will Smith in the bottom of the frame to fall to 60-41 on the season.
The success rate in one-run games often comes down a luck factor. Sabermetricians see it as a coin flip outcome. There was some bad luck in that ninth inning. Meanwhile Mariners’ success rate in one-run games — now 26-13 — is starting to slowly regress to the hard truth of the mean. With the A’s improbable rally from an eight-run deficit in the sixth inning for a 13-10 win over the Rangers, Seattle’s lead in the second wild card game is down to 1 1/2 games.
“We’ve been on the better side of most of those games this year,” Servais said. “It was they score, we score, back and forth. You felt really good about our chances late in the game because we have executed late in those games and won. Tonight, we didn’t.”
The ninth inning broke the scoring pattern throughout the game. The Giants would score one run in the top of an inning to take a lead and the Mariners would answer with a run of their own in the bottom of that frame to tie the game. The problem for Seattle was not scoring any more than the one run.
Notified that he would be starting on Tuesday morning because of a back issue with James Paxton, lefty long reliever Roenis Elias gave the Mariners an outing that was expected. He was decent, but not efficient. And for some reason, he simply couldn’t get Kelby Tomlinson, the Giants’ No. 9 hitter, out on the evening. Tomlinson scored the first run of the game, tripling to left-center with one out in the third inning and scoring on the bloop single of Chase D’Arnaud that traveled about 20 feet in the air and 80 feet in distance, landing on the grass behind the pitcher’s mound.
The Mariners answered in the bottom half of the inning with a solo homer from the most unlikely of sluggers. Centerfield Guillermo Heredia, who is fighting through an awful slump, came into the game batting just .167 since June 1. Still, he smashed his first homer since April 10. The towering shot into The ‘Pen in centerfield was his third of the season.
But Tomlinson got to Elias again in the fourth inning. After fouling off three straight pitches with two strikes, the bespectacled second baseman won the nine-pitch battle, lacing a RBI single up the middle on a gutted 95 mph fastball to make it 2-1.
Seattle tied the game again in the bottom of the fourth, but it was far from satisfying. Seattle loaded the bases with no outs and got a sac fly from Denard Span that scored Nelson Cruz to make it 2-2. But that was it. Mike Zunino followed with a single to left field. Third base coach Scott Brosius decided to try and score the not-fast Kyle Seager from second base. Leftfielder Austin Slater made a perfect read on the play and delivered a strong throw to home that beat Seager by at least five steps, not more for the second out of the inning.
The Giants re-took the lead in the sixth inning of solo homer from Hunter Pence off of Chasen Bradford that banged off the facade of the upper deck in deep left field.
The Mariners didn’t get that sort of a prodigious blast to tie the game in the bottom of the sixth. A pair of walks and a bloop single from pinch-hitter Ben Gamel scored Span to tie the game at 3-3.