Seattle would have won the game if shortstop Brad Miller hadn’t made a bad throw to first base in the ninth that let the White Sox stay alive.
CHICAGO — It’s a play that a major-league shortstop has to make with almost 100 percent regularity.
Brad Miller knows it, and he simply didn’t make it. And his ninth-inning error cost the Mariners a win Sunday afternoon.
The game should have been over and Miller should have been shaking hands with his teammates after taking three out of four from the White Sox.
Instead, they trudged off U.S. Cellular Field two innings later with their heads lowered in frustration while the White Sox wildly celebrated a 6-5 walkoff win.
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Tyler Saladino’s line-drive single to right field off lefty David Rollins scored Alexei Ramirez with the game-winning run in the 11th inning.
It was the Mariners’ 10th walkoff loss of the season and the 23rd time they’d lost on an opponent’s last at-bat.
“We had a great opportunity to win a game,” manager Lloyd McClendon said. “And we messed it up.”
In a season where few things have gone as expected and late-inning failures have been the norm, closing out any win is never a given.
There were more than a few things that led to defeat. But one unexecuted play in the bottom of the ninth inning stood out from the other missed opportunities.
With two outs and Trayce Thompson on second, Mariners reliever Carson Smith, serving as closer for the game, got Gordon Beckham to hit a ground ball to the left side of second base.
Miller fielded the ball cleanly, but his sidearm throw to first base was nowhere near the bag. First baseman Logan Morrison made a diving but futile attempt to get a glove on the wayward throw. The ball went into the Mariners’ dugout and Thompson scored the tying run.
“I was trying to make the play, and I pulled it a little bit,” Miller said. “It wasn’t even close. I had it secured. There was no rush. I just pulled it.”
If it wasn’t a routine play, it was close to it. Instead, it was Miller’s 14th error at shortstop this season.
“It was just a bad throw,” McClendon said. “It was a throw that pulls the first baseman off the bag. If it’s a good throw, we win the ballgame.”
Miller has seen his playing time at shortstop dwindle with the call-up and solid play of youngster Ketel Marte. Miller hadn’t started a game at shortstop since Aug. 14. His playing time has come in the outfield while also serving as a fill-in at second and third base. But Marte suffered a mild hamstring strain in Saturday night’s win over Chicago. It forced Miller back to shortstop for the game.
Unless Marte’s injury is worse than expected, Miller’s time at the position may have expired. MLB rosters expand on Sept. 1 and Class AAA shortstop Chris Taylor will almost certainly be added for depth as a backup to Marte.
The Mariners may finally commit to playing Miller exclusively in the outfield in that final month of the season.
Miller did end the inning one play later, fielding Saladino’s ground ball and firing accurately to first for the third out.
The Mariners went hitless in the top of the 10th and 11th inning.
Rollins was the last man left to pitch with Tom Wilhelmsen and Logan Kensing unavailable and the rest of the bullpen having thrown. A one-out single to Ramirez and a walk to Tyler Flowers put him trouble. Carlos Sanchez hit a deep fly to right field to allow Ramirez to tag and advance to third, setting up Saladino to be the hero.
Had Miller’s ninth-inning throw been on target, the Mariners would have stolen a nice win using essentially four relievers with about a combined 60 games of big-league experience.
Lefty reliever Edgar Olmos made the spot start — the first big-league start of his career — and gave Seattle five innings, allowing three runs on five hits with five walks (one intentional) and two strikeouts.
“Our young relievers did a tremendous job and our young starter did a tremendous job under adverse conditions,” McClendon said.
Olmos left the game with a 4-3 lead thanks to two-run homers from Kyle Seager and Austin Jackson in the first and second inning.
It was the third straight game Seager has homered, and it was the second straight game where he hit a two-run homer in his first plate appearance of the game.
Right-hander Mayckol Guaipe, who was called up before the game, replaced Olmos in the sixth and pitched two innings. He gave up three hits, including a homer to Melky Cabrera that tied the score at 4-4 in the seventh inning.
But Guaipe was set up for the win after Jackson tripled with two outs in the eighth inning and Seager drove him home with a single to center.
Lefty Rob Rasmussen and Smith combined to work a scoreless eighth.