That one sure got away quickly Wednesday night from the Seattle Mariners, didn’t it? A defensive misplay, a bomb and — wham — a tense and scoreless game turned into a 5-0 loss to the Los Angeles Angels.
The news from out-of-town wasn’t good, either.
For six-plus innings, this was a marvelous pitchers’ duel between Angels veteran C.J. Wilson and Mariners rookie James Paxton.
“First of all,” manager Lloyd McClendon said, “you’ve got to give C.J. Wilson a lot of credit. He matched Paxton pitch for pitch. They were outstanding. It was a heck of a ballgame for 62/3 (innings).
“Then things fell apart for us.”
Boy, did they ever.
Paxton seemed in complete command before yielding a one-out single to Howie Kendrick through the right side in the seventh inning.
Then disaster struck.
David Freese hit a sinking liner into the right-center gap that caught right fielder Chris Denorfia in no-man’s land. Denorfia pulled up late and tried to play the ball on a hop.
And the ball skipped past him.
“It comes down to I just misplayed it,” Denorfia said. “I’m not going to make any excuses for it. I took a bad angle to it, and I got caught in-between. And it bounced by me.”
Kendrick scored all the way from first, and Freese ended up at second. The scoring was a single, an error, no RBI … but one enormous run.
It was as if the dam broke.
After Tony Campana replaced Freese as a pinch-runner, Paxton tried to get Erick Aybar to chase a few pitches before issuing an intentional walk. Paxton struck out Chris Iannetta before the Mariners went to the bullpen.
That didn’t work.
C.J. Cron crushed a 1-1 fastball from reliever Danny Farquhar for a no-doubt homer to left-center field and that pitchers’ duel was suddenly a four-run spread.
“Oh, yeah,” Farquhar said. “A backup cutter. I wish I could have that one back. It stayed middle in. Right in his sweet spot. I just didn’t execute the pitch.”
And the Angels weren’t done.
Farquhar walked Collin Cowgill on a borderline pitch before Kole Calhoun painted the right-field line with an RBI double for a 5-0 lead.
Dominic Leone replaced Farquhar and ended the inning by striking out Mike Trout — Trout’s fourth strikeout of the game, not that it particularly mattered.
The final damage showed Paxton (6-3) with a line showing three runs in 62/3 innings.
“I felt really good,” he said. “The ball was coming out well. I was throwing my off-speed stuff for strikes, which made it a lot easier on me and kept them off the fastball.
“This definitely the best my stuff has been.”
It simply wasn’t good enough because Wilson (13-9) was brilliant in limiting the Mariners to one hit in seven innings, a clean single by Justin Smoak in the fifth inning.
Joe Smith and Huston Street closed out the combined one-hitter.
“It’s tough to win ballgames with one hit,” center fielder Austin Jackson said. “It makes it that much more frustrating when you’ve got a guy like Paxton going out there and matching (Wilson) pitch for pitch.”
The loss dropped the Mariners (81-70) to two games behind the Kansas City Royals and Oakland Athletics in the chase for the American League’s two wild-card berths with 11 games remaining.
The victory enabled the Angels to clinch a tie for the American League West crown. They became outright champions roughly an hour later when the A’s blew a late lead in a loss to the Texas Rangers.
Many in the crowd of 36,875 remained at Angel Stadium to watch the conclusion of Oakland’s loss on the big video boards.
The Mariners’ only real threat against Wilson came just before the Angels struck for five runs. Robinson Cano started the top of the seventh inning with an 11-pitch at-bat before taking a third strike.
Wilson then walked Kendrys Morales, who was replaced by pinch-runner James Jones. Wilson struck out Kyle Seager on three pitches and, after Jones stole second base, Denorfia walked.
It was the first time either club had more than one runner on base, but the opportunity slipped away when Smoak flied out to right. Everything then changed in the bottom half of the inning.
“It was a tough one tonight,” Paxton said, “but that’s baseball. It happens sometimes.”