The play that symbolized Sunday for the Mariners, and maybe all of April, actually had no impact on their 12-4 blowout loss to the Cleveland Indians at Progressive Field.
It was 1-1 with two outs in the first inning, and the Indians had rookie starter Chase De Jong in a jam with runners at second and third when Jason Kipnis lofted a foul pop between home and first base.
Dan Vogelbach rumbled in from first base, stumbled and fell like a slow-motion rock slide. The ball dropped untouched. It was inexplicably ruled a "no play" by official scorer Bob Maver, and the inning continued.
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"Coming in, I stumbled," Vogelbach said, "and the ball just took off behind me. I went to take a step back, and my feet just went out from under me."
De Jong worked around Vogelbach’s slip by retiring Kipnis on a fly to right, but it was a temporary reprieve.
The Mariners collapsed shortly thereafter when the Indians knocked out De Jong (0-2) in an eight-run third inning that built on foundation established by Vogelbach’s majestic misplay.
There was an RBI triple that right fielder Ben Gamel lost in the sun, a run-scoring error by shortstop Jean Segura that was, also inexplicably, scored a single. And some remarkably ineffective relief work by Casey Fien.
De Jong gave up six runs and nine hits in 2 2/3 innings.
"I need to be able to know where I’m throwing the ball at all times," he said. "That’s what got me here. That’s how I have success…It was on me. I did not execute well today at all."
It was, perhaps, an appropriate way for the Mariners to exit April.
They are 11-15 and at the bottom of the American League West Division. Forty percent of their rotation is on the disabled list. Their bullpen is seeking equilibrium, and their attack, while potent, has some major holes.
"Very inconsistent," said designated hitter Nelson Cruz, who went 2-for-3 with his fifth homer in six games. "A lot of ups and downs. It looks like we’re going to roll, but then..we just have to keep battling."
The Mariners spent April shuttling players to-and-from Triple-A Tacoma due to injuries and poor performance. Look for more moves prior to Tuesday’s series opener against the Angels at Safeco Field.
"It is still early in the season," manager Scott Servais said, "and we have scuffled through. A few injuries and guys trying to get right with the bat. But I still like our team. I really do.
"I believe in our guys, but it will be good to get home."
The eight-run third inning put the Mariners in an 9-1 hole. They rallied with three runs in the sixth inning, which knocked out Indians starter Josh Tomlin, but that was it.
Tomlin (2-3) gave up four runs in five-plus innings, which actually lowered his ERA from 9.33 to 8.87. So there was opportunity Sunday for the Mariners. Opportunity wasted. Like much of April.
PLAY OF THE GAME: Vogelbach’s stumble is likely to be on blooper reels for years to come.
PLUS: Guillermo Heredia started in center field and was 3-for-4, which raised his average to .327…Cruz had a homer, a single and a walk in four plate appearances. He is batting . 315…lefty Dillon Overton saved the bullpen by pitching five solid innings. An error opened the way to Cleveland’s three-run seventh…Chooch Ruiz threw out ex-Mariner Abraham Almonte on an attempted steal of second base in the second inning.
MINUS: Fien’s ERA is up to 15.00 after giving up two runs and three hits in one-third of an inning. He also allowed an inherited runner to score…Boog Powell was 0-for-3 in his big-league playing debut…De Jong was slow to cover first base in the second inning on Almonte’s grounder to first, which resulted in a single, before Almonte was thrown out trying to steal second base…official scorer Bob Maver had a rough day.
STAT PACK: Cruz has a 10-game hitting streak and is batting .471 (16-for-34) in that span with five homers and 15 RBIs.
QUOTABLE: Expect the Mariners to carry a four-man bench, which means seven relievers, until they’re convinced Cruz is recovered from a sore left hamstring.
"He’s not moving great," Servais said, "but it doesn’t bother him in the box. He feels fine swinging the bat, but he’s got to be cautious on the bases. We’d hate to lose him for an extended period of time."
Cruz said: "I’m just cautious, you know? I don’t need to run hard. I think having (Monday) off will be good. I’m feeling better every day."
SHORT HOPS: Ruiz went just 1-for-4 and is batting only .143, but he hit the ball hard four times and could be in line for additional playing time until Mike Zunino becomes more productive. Servais said: "We’ve got to look at that. I don’t want to let Mike get buried, but Chooch…is more consistent than Mike is right now. Do you get to the point where you can split time? Possibly."
Bob Dutton: @TNT_Mariners