The last punch Tuesday belonged to the Cleveland Indians in a 4-3 victory over the Mariners at Goodyear Ballpark in Goodyear, Arizona.
It was 3-3 when Michael Martinez opened the Cleveland eighth against Vidal Nuno with a grounder past third baseman Ed Lucas.
It turned into a triple when left fielder Efren Navarro couldn’t keep the ball from reaching the corner. Eric Stamets followed with a line single to left for a 4-3 lead.
That’s how it ended.
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The Mariners (3-4) opened the scoring after Dae-Ho Lee drew a one-out walk in the second inning. Lee chugged to third on Shawn O’Malley’s sharp single through the right side.
Mike Zunino followed with a sacrifice fly to deep center for a 1-0 lead.
The Indians took advantage of two defensive mistakes to score twice in the third inning. James Ramsey was at second with one out when Jose Ramirez’s grounder skipped through shortstop Chris Taylor for an RBI single.
Jason Kipnis followed with a grounder to the right side. Lee missed on a diving attempt, but O’Malley made a fine stop and had a play at first as pitcher Nathan Karns covered.
The problem came when Lee tried to scramble back to the base and bumped Karns, who dropped the ball. Ramirez went to third.
“We met around the same time,” Karns said. “The ball was in the air. It was just one of those tough plays that you never really practice for.”
Francisco Lindor then sent a sacrifice fly to deep left for a 2-1 lead. Karns finished the inning before departing with a line that showed two runs (one earned) and five hits in three innings.
The Mariners pulled even on Dan Robertson’s RBI bunt single in the fifth; the Indians (2-4-2) countered with Mike Napoli’s one-out RBI single in the sixth against Joe Wieland.
Two Cleveland errors helped the Mariners score the tying run in the eighth. The Mariners loaded the bases with two outs after Ed Lucas’ RBI single but stranded all three runners when Stefen Romero popped out.
PLAY OF THE GAME: Jose Ramirez led off Cleveland’s first inning with a double over the head of center fielder Nori Aoki. When Aoki’s throw got past shortstop Chris Taylor, Ramirez rounded second.
Second baseman Shawn O’Malley, backing up the throw, corralled the ball and made a snap throw to first baseman Dae-Ho Lee, who had trailed Ramirez to second.
Lee applied the tag before Ramirez could scramble back to second. Nice play by O’Malley to back up the throw; alert play by Lee to be in position to apply the tag.
PLUS: Lee also made a nice throw to the plate to get Mike Napoli after fielding a grounder behind the base with runners at second and third with no outs. The play enabled Karns to escape the jam by getting the next hitter to ground into a double play. … Reliever Tony Zych bounced back from a shaky outing by working a one-two-three fourth inning with two strikeouts. “That one felt better,” Zych admitted.
MINUS: Taylor failed to stop a sharp grounder by Ramirez in the third, which opened the way to a two-run inning. The Mariners had Taylor overshifted to the right side of second, and the ball was hit right at him.
STAT PACK: The Mariners entered the game with a .330 average, but had just five hits in 32 at-bats. … Seth Smith and Luis Sardinas were each hitless in three at-bats after entering the game at 6 for 7 and 7 for 12, respectively. … O’Malley stole two bases, which boosted the Mariners’ spring total to 10 in 11 attempts.
QUOTABLE: Left fielder Nori Aoki played center field for the first time since 2013 and could serve this season as the backup to Leonys Martin.
“First time in a long time,” Aoki said, “but it didn’t feel awkward. I’ve been working with (coach) Casey Candaele on Field One and Field Two (in the Mariners’ spring complex). So I was able to get into the game naturally.”
SHORT HOPS: Aoki took part in a photo shoot earlier this week with pitcher Hisashi Iwakuma and donned a Kuma bear hat — and quipped Tuesday: “I’m thinking of playing the season opener with that hat on.”
UP NEXT: The Mariners return Wednesday to Peoria for a 12:10 p.m. Pacific time game against a Kansas City split squad. It will be the first of 16 games televised this spring by Root Sports.
Right-hander Taijuan Walker is scheduled for a three-inning start against the World Series champions. The Royals are starting left-hander Matt Strahm, who spent last season in A-ball.
Also scheduled to pitch for the Mariners: Cody Martin, Steve Cishek, Justin De Fratus, Blake Parker and Paul Fry.
Bob Dutton: @TNT_Mariners