After two blowout victories, the Seattle Mariners saw their September surge slowed Wednesday night when they couldn’t protect a late lead in a 4-3 walk-off loss to the Kansas City Royals in 10 innings.
The end came when Lorenzo Cain drove a one-out single to right field against Tony Zych that scored pinch runner Paulo Orlando from second base with the winning run.
“It was a good pitch, down and away,” Zych said. “He put a good swing on it. … That’s what happens.”
The loss push the Mariners (74-78) closer to the brink of mathematical elimination from the postseason chase. They remained 5 1/2 games behind Houston for the American League’s final wild card berth.
With just 10 games to play.
Robinson Cano put the loss in context when asked about his single in the eighth inning, which enabled him to become just the 14th player in history to reach 2,000 hits through the first 11 seasons of his career.
“It was good,” he said, “but it would have been better if we had ended up winning. That’s all that matters now, winning games.
“Two thousand is something I’ll never forget. When you’re in your backyard, you dream (of these moments), but losing is not fun.”
Alex Gordon started the winning rally by snapping an 0-for-22 drought with a one-out single up the middle in a left-on-left matchup against David Rollins.
When Rollins (0-2) then Ben Zobrist, the Mariners brought in Zych. After Orlando replaced Gordon at second, Zych missed with a first-pitch sinker before Cain lined a single to right.
Seth Smith made an online throw to the plate, but it wasn’t close. Orlando easily beat the tag by catcher Jesus Sucre. Wade Davis (8-1) got the victory after a pitching the top of the 10th.
The loss came after the Mariners slammed Texas, 9-2, on Sunday and hit five home runs Tuesday in an 11-2 romp over the Royals in the series opener. They were seeking their 14th victory in 20 games.
The Mariners escaped Kansas City threats in the sixth, seventh and eighth innings, but Tom Wilhelmsen couldn’t close out the victory. It was his first blown save in 12 chances since returning in late August to the closer’s role.
“A couple of base hits in a row,” he said. “Some good base running. Followed by some walks. It’s usually not a good recipe. They’re an aggressive-swinging team. I knew that coming in.
“I made some decent pitches, but not decent enough I guess.”
The Royals got one-out singles from Cain and Eric Hosmer before loading the bases with a walk to Kendrys Morales. After speedy Terrance Gore replaced Morales, the Mariners shortened their infield.
It didn’t matter.
Jarrod Dyson hit a sacrifice fly to right field to tie the game at 3. The Royals reloaded the bases when Christian Colon walked, but Wilhelmsen got the game to extra innings by retiring Cheslor Cuthbert on a fly to right.
Kansas City’s rally snatched a victory away from Roenis Elias, who in his first start since Sept. 12 gave up one run and four hits in 5 1/3 innings. He handed off a 3-1 lead after 95 pitches.
The Mariners built that lead by scoring three two-out runs in the fifth inning against Kansas City starter Yordano Ventura. The key blow was Ketel Marte’s two-run triple.
Danny Farquhar replaced Elias in the sixth — and it got bumpy in a hurry.
Salvy Perez poked a single to right-center, which probably should have been caught. Perez went to third on Alcides Escobar’s two-out double into the left-field corner.
But Farquhar stranded both runners when Gordon grounded to second. Farquhar got the first out in the seventh but exited after a Cain double.
Joe Beimel lost a left-on-left matchup to Hosmer, who lined an RBI single into center.
But Beimel then picked off Hosmer before the Mariners again went to their bullpen, this time for Carson Smith, who got the inning’s final out.
Smith then worked himself in a jam in the eighth. First, he hit Mike Moustakas, who was replaced by Dyson as a pinch runner.
Dyson took second on Drew Butera’s sacrifice and stole third on Alex Rios’ swinging third strike.
A walk to Escobar put the go-ahead run on base and turned over the lineup to Gordon. Escobar stole second on an 0-2 pitch, which missed, without a throw.
But Smith struck out Gordon on the next pitch. That got the game, and a one-run lead, to Wilhelmsen in the ninth.
THURSDAY: Seattle (LHP James Paxton: 3-4, 3.70 ERA) at Kansas City (RHP Johnny Cueto: 2-6, 5.12), 5:10 p.m., Root Sports, 1030-AM, 710-AM