Fickle game, baseball.
Third baseman Kyle Seager made a spectacular game-saving play for the final out Wednesday when the Mariners held on for a one-run victory.
And then, on his first chance Thursday, Seager failed to handle what appeared to be a routine grounder. That first-inning error led to two Los Angeles runs, which proved pivotal in a 6-4 Seattle loss.
Don’t be fooled. This was a one-run game until the Angels feasted on an again-ineffective Nick Vincent in a three-run eighth inning, which turned Mike Zunino’s two-run homer in the ninth into a footnote.
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The Mariners could have bailed out Seager and starter Hisashi Iwakuma with a more potent attack, but they managed just two runs against Matt Shoemaker in seven innings: homers by Robinson Cano and Nelson Cruz.
Even so, it was 3-2 when Nori Aoki opened the eighth inning with a double on a sharp grounder against reliever Jose Alvarez that got through shortstop Andrelton Simmons.
The Mariners had the meat of their order coming up. But got nothing.
A pinch hitter and a pitching change resulted in Franklin Gutierrez hitting a weak fly to center against Jose Valdez, who then struck out Cano and retired Cruz on a grounder to short.
The Mariners finished 0 for 8 with runners in scoring position.
Vincent let the game get away in the bottom of the inning by serving up a two-run double to Albert Pujols after issuing an intentional walk to Mike Trout with a runner at second and one out.
Vincent gave up two homers in Tuesday’s loss.
The loss forced the Mariners to settle for a split in their four-game series against the Angels, who entered the week with a 10-game losing streak. The Mariners dropped to three games back in the wild-card chase.
Iwakuma (14-8) provided a silver lining by pitching seven innings, which allowed the Mariners to reset their weary bullpen. He lost for just the fourth time in his past 16 decisions.
Shoemaker (7-13) gave up two runs and five hits in seven innings before the Angels’ bullpen closed out the victory.
Cano’s two-out homer in the first inning, on a first-pitch fastball, provided Iwakuma with a 1-0 lead. It didn’t last.
The Angels struck back with two runs later in the inning by capitalizing on Seager’s error after putting runners at first and second with one out.
Pujols hit a grounder to third – a potential inning-ending double play – but the ball skipped through Seager for a run-scoring error. Simmons followed with an RBI single.
Seager ended Wednesday’s 4-3 victory by making a diving stop and throw to retire Simmons for the game’s final out with the bases loaded.
The Mariners ran themselves into an out after Seth Smith’s leadoff double in the fourth inning. Smith broke for third on Cano’s hopper up the middle, but an overshifted Simmons had an easy play on the ball and threw to third.
Another chance slipped away in the fifth inning after the Mariners put their first two batters on base. Shawn O’Malley struck out before Aoki and Smith grounded out.
Iwakuma had retired 11 in a row before Jett Bandy turned on a first-pitch slider with one out in the fifth inning. Bandy kept the ball just fair down the left-field line for his eighth homer. The Angels led 3-1.
The Mariners got one run back on Cruz’s one-out homer in the sixth inning. He drove a 2-2 change-up 421 feet to left – one pitch after the Angels believed they had him struck out.
The Pitch f/x tracker suggested the Angels had a point. Turned out, it didn’t matter.
Bob Dutton: @TNT_Mariners