Perhaps it will serve as a reality check to their actual place in the landscape of Major League Baseball. It’s certainly offered yet another reminder for the Mariners that their margin for error — or errors in this game — is slim. Put simply, they aren’t good enough to play poorly and beat any team they play.
In the shortened 2020 season, Seattle ran roughshod on the Texas Rangers, who were just beginning a rebuild and payroll reduction and finished with a 22-38 record. The teams played 10 times with the Mariners prevailing in eight games, including the last seven while outscoring Texas 60-32.
Now, three games into the 19 scheduled meetings this season, the Mariners have learned that the success last year against Texas means nothing.
With the sloppy and lackluster 10-2 defeat Sunday against the Rangers, including three errors and two unearned runs, Seattle lost two of three in the series and is now edging toward falling under .500 with an 18-17 record. Texas improved to 18-18.
“Not the way we thought this series would play out after we got the nice win on Friday night,” Seattle manager Scott Servais said. “Texas is really swinging the bat and is about as hot an offensive club as we’ve seen all year. That combined with we didn’t play great defense today and we really struggle executing on the 0-2, 1-2 pitches the last couple nights, and they’re doing damage with them. It’s a disappointing finish to this series. We didn’t play a good ballgame and we got it handed to us.”
The Mariners will have a day off Monday due to MLB rules about changing two time zones. They will get to spend almost all of it in their hotel because they haven’t reached the 85% threshold of vaccination. Then they get to face the World Series champion Los Angeles Dodgers for a two-game series.
After giving away multiple chances at a victory in a back-and-forth defeat Saturday night, the Mariners tossed away any hopes of victory with one awful inning Sunday.
After Mitch Haniger had given Seattle a 2-1 lead in the top of the fifth with a run-scoring single to right field off Rangers starter Dane Dunning, Texas answered with six runs in the bottom of the inning before Seattle starter Justus Sheffield could record an out.
The one-run lead didn’t last for more than one pitch in the bottom of the fifth. Sheffield hung a first-pitch slider to Charlie Culberson to start the inning and it was redirected into the stands in deep left-center for a homer to tie the game.
J.P. Crawford then committed the Mariners’ third error of the game with a wild throw to first base on a routine ground ball from No. 9 hitter Jose Trevino. Isiah Kiner-Falefa followed with a single and Nick Solak scored both runners with a double into the right-field corner.
A single from Nate Lowe set up rookie Adolis Garcia, who played in just three games for Texas in 2020, to continue his abuse of the Mariners pitching staff. Instead of burying a 1-2 slider to the back foot of Garcia, Sheffield left it in the middle of the plate. Garcia hit a towering shot that landed in the visitors’ bullpen in front of several Mariners relievers.
“Can’t do that,” Sheffield said. “Big-league hitters are going to hit that pitch. Big mistake right there and it cost me.”
Garcia finished with three hits, including a pair of run-scoring singles. He has hits in eight consecutive games and had seven hits with two homers and seven RBI in the three-game series. He has nine homers and 26 RBI in 30 games this season.
“Shef was ahead in the counts most of the day,” Servais said. “I really thought he was kind of in control of it, but the lack of execution in the 0-2 and 1-2 counts really hurt him. Typically, he’s better at that. When he does get ahead, he kind of tries to expand a little bit. He just wasn’t able to do that today. He left some pitches right there and they didn’t miss ’em.”
Sheffield gave Seattle five innings, allowing seven runs — only five earned — on 10 hits with five walks and two homers allowed.
“I wanted to go out there and my Plan A, and I felt like my Plan A would be good enough to beat these guys,” Sheffield said. “I felt like it would if I would have executed you know, especially in that last inning.”
Seattle’s Kyle Seager and Dylan Moore committed back-to-back errors in the third inning that led to an unearned run as well.
“I thought we’ve been playing great defense coming into today,” Servais said. “I know we lead the American League in double-plays turned. I thought we played really just outstanding defense probably last couple weeks. Today we didn’t make plays that we typically make — a throwing error and a couple fielding errors by our sure-handed guys. It happens, but it’s really hard to survive three errors against a team that’s swinging the bat like they are over there and work your way through it.”
Texas got a useful if not extended or efficient start from right-hander Dane Dunning. He pitched five innings, allowing two runs on six hits with three walks and 10 strikeouts, most of them coming on sliders outside of the strike zone.