The fourth inning told the story.
Not just the story of Sunday’s 9-3 loss to the Los Angeles Angels, in which the Mariners dropped their 15th game in their last 18 tries. It told the story of the season. It told the story of a step-back, of a 40-62 team that’s about to be sold for scraps at the trade deadline.
Seattle starter Yusei Kikuchi kicked off the frame by retiring Justin Upton and Andrelton Simmons in order.
(This is the part where the Mariners get off to a deceptively hot start.)
Then Albert Pujols singled on a grounder into the hole that diving shortstop J.P. Crawford couldn’t corral, and Brian Goodwin took a 91-mph fastball over the wall in left field for a two-run homer.
(This is the part where the Mariners’ pitching falters.)
“Even though today’s result wasn’t what I wanted, I felt like I was throwing pretty well and my fastball had some good run on it,” said Kikuchi (L, 4-7), who entered the game with a 5.01 ERA. “Moving forward, I do have to work more on my fastball and curveball mix.”
Then things got weird. Dustin Garneau sent a sharp ground ball down the third-base line, and after bobbling it, Kyle Seager’s throw across the diamond was not in time. Then Luis Rengifo smacked a tailing blooper into shallow right field; Domingo Santana slid and the ball banked off the web of his glove, caroming into the corner for an RBI triple. Then David Fletcher dropped a swinging bunt dribbler to third; Seager’s throw was again a step late and Rengifo scored the Angels’ fourth run of the inning.
(This is the part where the Mariners’ defense disappoints.)
Then, in the bottom of the inning, Seattle catcher Tom Murphy cracked a double over Upton’s head in left field that should have scored Tim Beckham from first. It didn’t, because the ball took a hard bounce on the warning track and hopped cruelly over the wall for a ground-rule double.
(This is the part where the Mariners can’t catch a break.)
Then, with two outs and runners on second and third, Seager promptly popped out on the first pitch to end another scoreless inning.
(This is the part where the Mariners’ offense can’t deliver timely hits.)
“The fourth inning was huge,” Mariners manager Scott Servais concluded after the game.
The fourth inning alone would have been enough for Los Angeles to escape sunny Seattle with a series win on Sunday. But, just for good measure, Pujols, Garneau and Mike Trout each cranked solo homers as well. Kikuchi was knocked around for nine hits and seven runs in five innings.
“I feel like I’m not really getting into good counts, and that’s something I struggled with today,” Kikuchi said through a translator.
The Mariners’ bullpen was also underwhelming, as Erik Swanson and Matt Festa allowed a solo homer apiece in the final four frames. On the other side, Angels pitchers Dillon Peters, Noe Ramirez, Adalberto Mejia and Luis Garcia combined to scatter 10 hits and one run in eight innings, stranding 10.
And, yes, Seattle second baseman Dee Gordon went 3 for 4 with three singles. Center fielder Mallex Smith got the Mariners on the board in the seventh, chopping an awkward double down the third base line that scored Austin Nola. They added two more runs in the ninth, via a Santana single and a Trevor Cahill wild pitch.
“Dee found something a little bit in his game,” Servais said of Gordon, who had six hits in nine plate appearances in the series. “The last time we were in Anaheim we gave him last Sunday off and he had a good pinch hit late in that game, and sometimes it’s just one at-bat that gets you back locked in. He had a very productive at-bat. He’s swinging the bat really good since then. Hopefully it continues. We need him. We need him to be productive.”
Yes, there were occasional exceptions in Seattle’s forgettable series finale.
But you know how it ended.
(This is the part where the Mariners lose.)