The Mariners’ 9-7 loss to Kansas City on Sunday proved to be a comedy of errors. Five of them. But none were all that funny.
The Royals also hit two home runs – the first a grand slam, the second a three-run shot – to augment a come-from-ahead-then-behind victory, a game the Mariners led 7-5 until Kansas City’s four-run seventh inning against reliever Danny Farquhar.
Afterward, Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon was short, direct and colorful all at once. And he was right.
“We kicked ourselves in the ass today,” he said, “and it’s that simple.”
The self-inflicted damage to their hind-parts began in the second inning, when the first two Kansas City batters reached on singles, one that deflected off the glove of third baseman Kyle Seager.
Lorenzo Cain followed with another sharp ground ball to Seager – back in the lineup after missing two games with the flu – and again he had trouble corralling it, this time committing Seattle’s first error. Had he picked it up cleanly, a double play was likely. Instead, the bases were loaded with nobody out.
Mariners starter Roenis Elias struck out the next batter. He had less luck with Alcides Escobar, who launched a first-pitch fastball over the left-field fence for his first career grand slam.
“That was the first pitch I threw to him today, and he jumped on it,” Elias said through an interpreter. “That’s all there was to it.”
The Mariners (19-18) did score some runs for him, enough that he left with a 6-5 lead after throwing 87 pitches through five innings.
Dustin Ackley was the chief supporter, homering against Royals starter Jeremy Guthrie in his first two at-bats – both to center field – after doing the same in his final at-bat Saturday. Ackley’s second home run Sunday immediately followed a two-run homer by Seager in the fourth inning, and Corey Hart’s run-scoring single with two outs in the fifth put Seattle ahead 7-5.
Even shortstop Brad Miller contributed offensively, snapping an 0-for-19 slump with a two-run double in the third inning.
“I think I’ve been seeing the ball pretty well, putting good swings on balls, not missing things,” Ackley said. “In the past it’s just been a little off with some foul balls and things, and I think now I’m not missing the pitches that I’m supposed to hit.”
But the Mariners missed too many balls they were supposed to field, or threw them where they shouldn’t have. Catcher Mike Zunino committed the team’s second error in the fourth inning when he short-hopped a pickoff attempt to second base, allowing Johnny Giavotella to advance to third.
First baseman Justin Smoak committed the Mariners’ third error, charging a slow roller later in the same inning in an attempt to throw Giavotella out at home. But Smoak missed it and the run scored.
The fourth and fifth errors wound up harmless. They were both committed by right-fielder Cole Gillespie, a defensive replacement, in the ninth inning. And they occurred on the same play – first a mishap fielding a single that allowed Alex Gordon to reach second base, followed immediately by a poor throw that allowed Gordon to advance to third. But reliever Yoervis Medina struck out Cain to end the inning.
Of larger consequence was Farquhar’s mistake in the seventh, though he missed with a pair of 3-2 pitches on back-to-back batters that very well could have been called strikes.
Instead, they were walks that loaded the bases. All three of those runners scored, first on Cain’s sacrifice fly, then on Giavotella’s three-run homer with two outs.
“I played (against) the guy in college, and I kind of knew he was an ambusher, and I should have been a little more locked in and executed the pitch a little better,” Farquhar said.
The Mariners, who have still won seven of their last 10 games, managed only two hits in the final four innings against the Royals’ bullpen. If not for their leather-related miscues, seven runs might have been enough to win.
McClendon didn’t want to talk about it.
“One thing I don’t do is make excuses for guys,” he said. “The onus is on the players in that locker room today. So you’ve got a question about errors, go talk to them.”
Said Ackley: “Sometimes, they’re as contagious as hitting is. Anything’s contagious. I think we’ve just got to scratch this one and move on. It was a tough game. I think we should have won it. But we’re going to have these games. I think we’re going to have games, too, that we’re not supposed to win that we do win. We’ve just got to come back strong tomorrow.”