As the Mariners players congregated in the infield of T-Mobile Park for the customary postgame handshake to celebrate a victory — this one being a wild 6-5 escape act Saturday night over the Red Sox, which featured a ninth inning that seemed unfathomable — Ryon Healy sought out Dylan Moore in the line of players. Instead of the quick handshake or fist bump, Healy put his arm around Moore and spent a few extra moments trying to provide some sort of comfort to the rookie utility player, who suffered through and survived his worst inning of baseball of his professional career.
With two outs and the Mariners trying to close out what should have been an easy four-run win over the defending World Series champions, Moore, who got the start at third base — his first MLB start of any kind — committed errors on three straight plays, allowing three runs to score. What seemed like a comfortable victory had suddenly turned into a looming catastrophe that would have followed the late-game disaster from the night before where Seattle blew a two-run lead in the top of the ninth.
However, Nick Rumbelow struck out Xander Bogaerts looking to stop Moore’s misery and secure Seattle’s fourth win of the season and second of the four-game series with Boston.
So what advice did Healy offer?
“I don’t know if anything I said helps, but I’ve been there and I know that feeling and it’s not fun,” Healy said. “As a professional, that stuff makes you learn and grow as a player. I know he’s going to do exactly that.”
The Mariners entered the ninth with a 6-2 lead, which seemed like a fair amount of cushion even for an already-beat up bullpen that was without closer Hunter Strickland, who was placed on the 10-day injured list just before the game. After getting a scoreless seventh and eighth inning from reliever and Rule 5 draft pick Brandon Brennan, manager Scott Servais brought in Zac Rosscup to pitch the ninth.
Rosscup gave up a leadoff single to pinch-hitter Christian Vazquez and later issued a two-out walk to Andrew Benintendi. But he appeared to have ended the game when Mookie Betts hit a sharp ground ball to Moore at third. But Moore mishandled it, recovered and then hurried a throw to first base that sailed over Healy’s head for his first error that allowed a run to score.
Rafael Devers followed with hard ground ball to third that ate up Moore, never allowing him to field it cleanly or even attempt a throw as another run crossed. Servais called on Rumbelow to face the right-handed hitting RBI machine that is J.D. Martinez. The cruelty for a clearly flustered Moore continued when Martinez hit a sharp ground ball to third. Moore bobbled it and then bounced the throw over to first base, where Healy couldn’t make the stop.
Three errors, three runs scored.
“One thing led to another, obviously,” Moore said. “It’s one of those things that where it rains, it pours. I have to put it behind me. Tomorrow is a new day. And if they hit it to me, I’m going to get it. It just didn’t happen.”
Healy, who has bounced between third and first his entire career, knows how things can spin out of control. He’s felt that intersection between helplessness, hopelessness and embarrassment.
“It’s a very fast game as it is,” he said. “And mistakes heighten a lot of those things. I know first hand that it’s tough to slow it back down.”
While his Mariners’ teammates, specifically Jay Bruce, talked about the difficulty of the plays and how hard the balls were hit to him, Moore would take no such liberties.
“I will be the first to tell you I have to make all three of those plays every single time,” he said. “That’s just me being who I am as a person. I’m not going to say any of those were difficult plays or not difficult plays. It’s something I’ve got to make happen.”
No player was happier than Moore to see Rumbelow retire Bogaerts without allowing a ball to be put in play.
“The win definitely helps,” Moore said. “But you want to make those plays. Pitchers are out there making pitches and you want to make the plays. That’s my job. I have to do it.”
Servais tried to lighten the mood when asked about Moore’s adventure.
“I will say for Mariners fans in the Midwest and thee eastern part of the country, stay up late to watch the end of our games, you never know what you are going to get,” he said.
Yeah, like three errors on three straight plays from one player. Servais has never seen it before.
“In the ninth inning? No I never have,” he said. “That’s why you come to the ballpark every night. I’m glad there wasn’t a fourth.”
By all indications, the Mariners aren’t going to send Moore to Class AAA Tacoma on Sunday. Servais’ job is to help Moore “wash” the game from his memory so it doesn’t affect him going forward.
“Everybody has those games that you never forget,” Servais said. “I had three passed balls in the same inning. You think how does that happen. You’ve got to wash it. Dylan Moore is a good player. He had a good spring training. We like him a lot. Sometimes he gets going a little too fast. That’s what happened tonight. He’ll be back out there. That’s baseball. And a big part of baseball is how you bounce back and we’re going to find out a lot about him too.”
After looking less than stellar in his previous outing — a meaningless exhibition game against the Padres — Seattle starter Mike Leake turned in a solid showing against a lineup that isn’t enjoyable navigating while throwing to a catcher he met Friday. Leake worked six innings, allowing two runs on seven hits with two walks and seven strikeouts to notch his first win of the season.
Leake did what he does in most starts: throw strikes, pitch to contact, get ground balls and wiggle out of serious trouble despite runners on base. Working with catcher Tom Murphy, who was acquired late Thursday evening and joined the team Friday, Leake worked just one clean inning, but also only allowed one extra-base hit — a double to Mitch Moreland in the second inning on a fly ball to the gap in left-center that probably should’ve been caught.
The Mariners grabbed a 2-0 lead off Red Sox starter Eduardo Rodriguez in the first inning. Mitch Haniger worked a leadoff single and later came around to score on Tim Beckham’s looping single to center. Ryon Healy drove in the second run of the frame on a hard double to the left-field corner, scoring Bruce, who had drawn a two-out walk. Besides the lead, the Mariners forced Rodriguez to throw 31 pitches in the frame.
Boston came back to pick up runs in the second and third inning off Leake to tie the score.
But Seattle took the lead for good in the fourth inning. Healy led off the inning with a double to right field — all five of hits this season have been extra-base hits — and later scored on Dee Gordon’s two-out broken bat single.
Seattle took control of the game int he fifth inning when Bruce ambushed a first-pitch, 91-mph fastball from Rodriguez, sending a laser over the wall in deep right-center for a three-run homer. It was Bruce’s first homer of the season and it was the Mariners’ 13th homer as a team. The Mariners have homered in all four games of their games this season.