SEATTLE — When Kyle Seager, the Mariners’ Gold Glove third baseman, whiffed Saturday night on a ground ball for an error on the game’s first play…well, you could almost feel this coming.
The Mariners have been inconsistent, often to an infuriating degree, throughout their first 16 games. On Saturday, in an 8-5 loss to the Minnesota Twins, they were too often simply inept.
“We shot ourselves in the foot quite a bit tonight,” manager Lloyd McClendon said. “Our philosophy around here is real simple: nine innings, 27 outs.
“We didn’t do that tonight on a lot of different fronts, and it cost us the ballgame.
The Twins, prior to Saturday, had scored fewer runs than any American League club. So the Mariners helped them out. Four of Minnesota’s first five runs reached base through a walk or an error.
Mariners starter James Paxton (0-2) labored through 106 pitches in just 4 2/3 innings, although three errors — including two by Seager — contributed to his problems.
“That’s baseball,” Paxton said of the errors. “That happens, and I failed to respond to that.”
Paxton yielded four runs. Just one was earned, but he missed chances to pick up his defense by issuing a bases-loaded walk in the first inning and yielding a pair of two-out RBI singles in the fifth.
“That walk was unfortunate,” he said. “I was trying to go after the hitter there and just missed low. And baseball happened there in the fifth inning. Balls didn’t go at people.”
An early exit by Paxton meant the bullpen had, again, to pick up a slew of innings. And let’s just say this wasn’t the unit’s best work.
Dominic Leone and Yoervis Medina each gave up a pair of runs. Tyler Olson failed in a left-on-left matchup — although, to be fair, it was against Joe Mauer.
A year ago, the bullpen often took over games in the middle innings and kept the opponent in check, which at least provided a chance for a comeback.
“It didn’t happen tonight,” McClendon said. “That’s what we needed. We went to Medina and thought that would get it done. It just didn’t happen.”
What happened instead was the Mariners issued seven walks and committed three errors that made the evening seem a lot longer than 3 hours, 26 minutes.
Minnesota starter Trevor May, a native of Kelso, Wash., was knocked from the game (video link) in the fourth inning when struck on his pitching elbow by a Seager line drive.
May went for X-rays, which revealed only a bruise. He gave up two runs and three hits in 3 1/3 innings. Tim Stauffer (1-0) replaced May and held the Mariners in check into the sixth inning.
“It’s always scary,” Twins manager Paul Molitor said, “when your pitcher gets hit like that, especially when their throwing arm is involved. The good news is the X-rays came back negative.
“The right elbow is going to be sore but, hopefully, he can rebound and get himself back in there.”
The Mariners stirred to life in the later innings. Austin Jackson’s two-run homer (video link) in the seventh pulled them to within 8-5, but those early missteps proved too much to overcome.
Twins closer Glen Perkins anchored a six-man bullpen relay by working a scoreless ninth for his fourth save in four chances. The loss dropped the Mariners to 7-10 overall and to 4-4 on a nine-game homestand.
“I read it as a team that hasn’t clicked yet,” Seager said. “Certainly, everything — offensively, defensively, pitching — hasn’t been as sharp as you’d like.
“If you look at it in that regard, I think the future is pretty exciting.”
The Mariners set an early tone by turning Minnesota’s first inning into a hash through errors by Seager and Jackson along with two costly walks from Paxton.
The damage was only one run. It could have been much worse, and then the Mariners answered immediately with a two-run double from Nelson Cruz. (video link)
The game turned in the fourth when when Eduardo Escobar, (video link) and his .161 average, tattooed a full-count fastball from Paxton for a 406-foot homer to left that pulled the Twins even at 2-2.
Seager’s second error fueled Minnesota’s two-run fifth, which knocked out Paxton. The Twins then built their lead to 6-2 in the sixth and to 8-3 in the seventh against the Mariners’ bullpen.
“During the course of the year,” McClendon said, “you’re going to lose games. We all know that. The ones that are tough to swallow are the ones when you beat yourself.
“Tonight, we beat ourselves. That’s tough to swallow. It’ll be a sleepless night. We’ve got to do better than that.”