Tied at 2-2 in the top of the ninth inning in Saturday night’s game at T-Mobile Park, the ball came off the bat of Los Angeles Angels second baseman Luis Rengifo for what appeared to be a routine infield pop fly and the final out of the inning. But neither Seattle Mariners’ relief pitcher Roenis Elias or first baseman Tim Beckham could find the ball in the sky, and amidst the confusion, the ball dropped to the grass and extended the inning for the Angels.
“I don’t think the guys, either Tim or Roenis saw it off the bat,” said Mariners’ manager Scott Servais. “It’s that time of night, you can call it a high sky, or whatever you want to call it. But when the ball goes up, if you take your eye off it for a second or if you don’t see it right away, panic sets in. That’s what happened. The guys feel terrible about it. They know. They know we have to make those plays at that point in the game and it just didn’t get done.”
The Angels pounced on the opportunity after the play. Leadoff hitter David Fletcher singled into right field in the next at-bat to drive in a run and put the Angels up, 3-2. Then Mike Trout, who had been held in check until that point, crushed a three-run home run to left center field to give the Angels a 6-2 lead and seal the win.
“We both just lost it,” Beckham said. “It went up, I saw it. I was tracking it when it came down and I just completely lost it.”
Beckham had switched from left field to first base in the eighth inning, but said the position change didn’t have any impact on the play.
“Position doesn’t have anything to do with it,” Beckham said. “We’re professionals and you’re held accountable. The play should be made.”
The Mariners got on the board first in the second inning when a Dee Gordon sacrifice fly scored Omar Narvaez. Then the Mariners put another run across in the third, with a Narvaez single into right field scoring J.P. Crawford from second.
Mariners’ pitcher Wade LeBlanc, who “started” in the second inning after opener Matt Wisler threw one scoreless inning to open the game, threw a strong game but ran into a bit of trouble in the fourth, putting the first three hitters on base, with two of three being walked.
Los Angeles tied the game on a fielder’s choice double play and a Kevan Smith RBI single.
“For me, it’s tough to have a lead and then give it back in one inning,” LeBlanc said. “That’s the tough part. Roenis has been great all year. It’s just one of those things where it gets lost in the lights or the sky or whatever — but for me, I have to be able to keep that lead.”
LeBlanc said the walks were the most frustrating part of his otherwise strong outing.
“I’m always frustrated with walks,” he said. “My job is to execute pitches. It seemed like there were a couple pitches that could’ve gone either way but that’s going to happen over the course of a nine-inning ball game, so I’ve got to be able to make more.”
Seattle’s offense — which exploded for 10 runs one night earlier — was held to two runs on just five hits on Saturday.
“That’s going to be the key,” Servais said. “You’ve got to score more than a couple runs to beat the team in our division with the lineups they have. Last night, we had it all clicking. Tonight, not so much. Their bullpen pitched really well. It was one of those games that was going to come down to a big hit or big play late, and we didn’t make it.”
The Mariners play the Angels in the series final on Sunday, July 21 at 1:10 p.m. at T-Mobile Park.