Nelson Cruz is power-bingeing again. He hit two more home runs Wednesday night after getting one a day earlier and … well, it just didn’t matter.
The Seattle Mariners buried themselves in a disastrous, eight-run third inning in a 9-4 loss to the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park.
Sure, the key blow was a grand slam by Mariners nemesis Nick Castellanos who, the numbers suggest, is putty against pretty much every other opponent.
But Gold Glove third baseman Kyle Seager had two errors in the inning, including his first throwing error in nearly 14 months. And starter Mike Montgomery (4-4) issued three walks, including one to start the inning.
“I just wasn’t aggressive enough,” Montgomery said. “I just got away from pitching to contact. I’ve got to use that fastball. I’ve got to pitch to contact. I’ve had some success doing that.
“I think I went toward the swing-and-miss type pitches too early. I think just trusting that fastball is what I needed to do today. I felt I had really good stuff today. That’s the frustrating part.”
Even so, Montgomery’s worst pitch was the 90-mph cookie he grooved to Castellanos on a 2-0 count. Castellanos rocked it 447 feet to center field, and the Tigers led, 5-0.
“I fell behind 2-0,” Montgomery said, “and I had to come into the zone. He knew it, and he’s a good hitter. He’s been hitting really well lately. That’s what happens. That’s why you’ve got to get ahead of guys.”
All eight runs were charged to Montgomery, who did not survive the inning.
So the Mariners were down 8-0 before Cruz got his boomstick warmed up.
Cruz hit a two-run bomb, tracked at 437 feet, in a three-run fourth inning. He then led off the sixth with an opposite-field drive he seemed to mishit, but it still had 390 feet of carry.
“Baseball and the swing are crazy,” said Cruz, who had hit three homers in his previous 45 games before Tuesday. “It’s always small details that change your swing. It makes a difference.”
Both homers came against Detroit starter Anibal Sanchez, who gave up four runs and nine hits in 62/3 innings while pitching like a guy with a big lead. He improved to 10-7.
Alex Wilson, Blaine Hardy, Al Alburquerque and Joakim Soria closed out Sanchez’s victory. The Tigers added an insurance run in the eighth inning against Joe Beimel.
Montgomery escaped a major jam in the second inning after left fielder Dustin Ackley tried for (and missed) a diving catch on James McCann’s one-out liner.
Castellanos held up initially in breaking from first and stopped at third as McCann reached second for a double. Montgomery then struck out Jefry Marte and retired Jose Iglesias on a grounder to short.
Iglesias’ grounder took a bad hop, but Brad Miller reacted and made the play.
The nightmarish third inning started when Rajai Davis led off with a walk by working back from a 1-2 hole.
“I got ahead,” Montgomery said, “but I walked the leadoff guy. Those are the little things that really come back to bite you.”
This one did.
Ian Kinsler followed the walk by putting down a bunt. Seager charged from third and made the pickup, but sailed the throw past first baseman Mark Trumbo.
“You get quite a few of those (bunt plays),” Seager said. “I gripped it pretty good. I just threw it up the line a little.”
Davis scored all the way from first, and Kinsler reached second on what was scored a single and an error. It was Seager’s first throwing error in 413 chances, dating to May 29, 2014.
“It happened in a hurry,” Seattle manager Lloyd McClendon said. “It all started with a two-strike walk. Then the bunt. After that, everything went to heck.”
Montgomery then issued another walk, to Yoenis Cespedes, before a passed ball moved the runners to second and third with no outs.
Second baseman Robinson Cano temporarily saved a run with a terrific over-the-shoulder catch on Victor Martinez’s pop into short right field. That prompted an intentional walk to J.D. Martinez, which loaded the bases.
Montgomery fell behind 2-0 before coming in with a 90-mph four-seamer that Castellanos crushed for the slam.
Castellanos is 11 for 22 with four homers and 13 RBIs in six games against the Mariners. He is batting .229 against everyone else with four homers and 30 RBIs in 85 games.
The Tigers weren’t done.
Marte reached on an two-out infield single to third and scored on Iglesias’ double to left.
Davis followed with a liner to third off Seager’s glove (another error), and Iglesias came all the way around.
“I was right there,” Seager said. “I don’t really know what happened on it. It wasn’t hit too high. It wasn’t it as hard as the one (on Tuesday). It was … I probably should have made (the catch).”
In came David Rollins, who served up an RBI double to Kinsler that boosted the Tigers’ lead to 8-0. Rollins finally ended the inning by retiring Cespedes on a fly to center.
The damage: Detroit sent 12 batters to the plate in scoring eight runs on five hits, three walks and the first two-error inning of Seager’s career.
The eight runs matched a season-worst inning for the Mariners; they also gave up eight in the first inning on June 12 in a 10-0 loss at Houston. That was the night that Felix Hernandez recorded one out before exiting.
That was too much even for a resurgent Cruz.
As for Montgomery, his line showed eight runs, six earned, and six hits in 22/3 innings. His ERA spiked from 2.43 at the start of the third inning to 3.25.
THURSDAY: Seattle (RHP Hisashi Iwakuma: 2-1, 4.89 ERA) at Detroit (LHP David Price: 9-3, 2.32), 10:08 a.m., Root Sports, 1030-AM, 710-AM