It was an abysmal weekend for the Mariners in their biggest series of the season to date.
ARLINGTON, Texas — The Mariners finally got the quality start from a starting pitcher that they’ve been seeking.
Hisashi Iwakuma gave the Mariners everything they needed to salvage a series win Sunday and avoid being swept by the Texas Rangers.
Instead, Seattle gave the game away with two costly mistakes and not enough offense, squandering Iwakuma’s outstanding outing in a 3-2 loss.
Road trip blues
It was a disheartening five-game road trip for the M’s, who return home three games out of first place in the AL West.
Record on trip
It was an abysmal weekend for the Mariners in their biggest series of the season to date. They came into Globe Life Park on Friday tied with Texas atop the American League West standings and dropped all three games with only Sunday’s game being much of a contest.
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“It was a disappointing series,” manager Scott Servais said. “We didn’t play well. We really didn’t play well the whole road trip other than the great come-from-behind win. Other than that, there wasn’t much to speak of.”
The Mariners fell to 31-25 as Texas went up three games in the AL West.
“Unfortunately, we kind of gave the game away, in my opinion,” Servais said. “Defensively, we didn’t make some plays in the (fifth) inning and they put a three-spot up and that was the end of the story.”
Iwakuma (4-5) gave the Mariners one of his best starts of the season, working seven innings, giving up three runs (one earned) on four hits with a walk and seven strikeouts.
“Can’t say enough about the job Kuma did, outstanding,” Servais said. “It was exactly what we needed. It was probably the best he’s been all year. He did it against a hot team. He was aggressive and attacked the zone. He was very prepared. He knew exactly what he was going to do with all their guys. It was a really professional outing in a time we needed it.”
Iwakuma cruised through the first four innings, allowing just one base runner — a leadoff single to Jurickson Profar to start the bottom of the first. Nelson Cruz’s two-run homer off Rangers starter Derek Holland in the third inning, gave Iwakuma a 2-0 lead to work with.
But with one out and a runner on first in the fifth, the Mariners’ defense fell apart and the lead disappeared.
Luis Sardinas booted a slow roller off the bat of Elvis Andrus. While a double play was unlikely, getting at least one out would have been useful.
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“That’s a tough play, a big-league play,” Servais said. “You have to come get the ball. It’s not an easy play, but Luis is an accomplished shortstop. I’m sure he thinks he should have made it as well.”
Texas capitalized on the error. Jared Hoying lined a single into left-center to score Mitch Moreland to cut the lead to 2-1.
The most memorable Mariners’ mistake soon followed.
With a runner on third and one out, Iwakuma got Bobby Wilson to hit a shallow fly ball to left field. Stefen Romero came on to make the catch and looked prepared to throw home if Andrus, who was on third tagging up, decided to go.
After coming off the bag slowly like he wasn’t going to go, Andrus watched Romero hesitate and hold onto the ball for a few seconds instead of firing it immediately to the cutoff man, Kyle Seager.
“My first instinct was he was going to fake break or something,” Romero said. “I caught it and came up and there was no movement so I kind of double pumped and was just going to throw it in and try to hit Seager. That’s when he took off.”
Seeing Romero flat-footed, Andrus broke for home. Romero hurried a loopy, readjusted throw to the plate, but it was too late. Andrus slid in safely, well ahead of the ball and the score was tied at 2-2.
“I know it was a shallow fly ball, but I tagged,” Andrus said. “You never know what can happen. In that situation, I was just hoping he’d kind of flare the ball to the infield or not be in position to throw the ball. As soon as he caught it, I just started jogging a little bit. As soon as I saw him get a little bit lazy, I just took off for home plate, knowing that when you throw the ball and you’re not in a good throwing position it’s going to be hard to make a good throw even if you’re close. I took my chances, and I’m glad I made it.”
Romero used the term lackadaisical to describe the play, admitting he should have just threw it in immediately.
Servais was not pleased.
“It’s a routine play, just catch it and get it into the infield,” Servais said. “I’m not quite sure what he was thinking there. In the big leagues, you have to come physically and mentally ready to play every day because these are the best players in the world. And when you let down a little bit mentally, it will get you. It was a mental mistake.”
It didn’t remain tied for long. Iwakuma left a 1-1 fastball over the middle that Profar lined to left for an RBI single, scoring Hoying with the go-ahead run. Romero overran the single, and didn’t make a throw home, and Profar advanced to second.