SEATTLE — This was probably fitting. The Mariners capped a gruesome Saturday night by running themselves into a game-ending double play in a 6-5 loss to the Minnesota Twins at Safeco Field.
"A headache," manager Scott Servais said. "That was a crazy game. A lot of stuff you don’t normally see. We had a lot of guys on base, a lot of opportunities and didn’t cash in. Certain nights that happens.
Never more than at the end.
The Mariners, after squandering chances all game, put runners at first and third in the ninth inning with no outs against Twins closer Kevin Jepsen.
Nelson Cruz lead off with a walk after getting a break when right fielder Miguel Sano threatened to undo a big offensive night by dropping a catchable foul pop.
Pinch-runner Shawn O’Malley then raced to third when Kyle Seager grounded a single through the right side. First and third with no outs for Dae-Ho Lee.
Jepsen bounced a pitch to Lee that got away from catcher Juan Centeno. Had Seager broken immediately, he probably reaches second. But he hesitated, and then chose to hold at first.
That proved a key play.
The runners held when Lee hit a fly to short right, and then disaster struck.
Seager did break for second when another Jepsen pitch got away from Centeno with Franklin Gutierrez at the plate. Centeno pounced on this one more quickly and threw to second.
When Seager pulled up to initiate a rundown, O’Malley broke toward home but retreated when second baseman Brian Dozier threw to third. O’Malley wasn’t quick enough; Eduardo Nunez applied the tag.
Nunez then threw to second, and shortstop Eduardo Escobar tagged Seager before he reached the base. Game over.
"The catcher did a really nice job of smothering it," Seager said. "He made a nice throw and…it didn’t work out too well. It was me probably trying to be a little too aggressive there."
Both plays were close, and the Mariners challenged, but a video reviewed allowed both calls to stand.
"I thought I did (get back)," O’Malley said, "but that’s not the way it resulted. It is what it is. I probably should have just stayed home. But I was thinking `score.’ I wanted to win the game.
"Unfortunately, it ended up costing us."
That…and so much else.
So here we are. The Mariners entered the weekend on a roll and having lost only one of their 12 previous series. Now, they find themselves on the verge of getting swept at home by the league’s worst club.
The loss trimmed the Mariners’ lead atop the AL West to one-half game over second-place Texas. The two teams play one another six times over the next 15 days.
Unlike Friday’s clunker — Servias’ word — the Mariners had plenty of chances in Saturday’s loss. In particular, they squandered two big-inning opportunities after loading the bases with no outs.
For all that, they scored five runs, including four against Minnesota starter Phil Hughes in 4 2/3 innings. And the Mariners, before Saturday, were 23-3 when they scored four runs or more.
Five wasn’t enough to overcome a rocky start by Wade Miley, who gave up five runs in four-plus innings.
Sano had a two-run shot in the first and, after the Mariners took a 4-2 lead, Miley imploded in the fifth inning. He gave up a leadoff homer to Nunez, then walked Dozier before giving up a two-run homer to Joe Mauer.
The Twins led 5-4.
"I didn’t have command of the heater," Miley said, "and that can get you in trouble. That’s on me. I’ve got to do a better job. I know we’re going to score runs, and we did. I put us behind the 8-ball."
Luis Sardinas’ leadoff homer in the sixth inning tied the game before the Twins scored the game’s final run on Sano’s RBI single against Nick Vincent (2-3) in the seventh.
Minnesota’s shaky bullpen collection protected the one-run lead over the closing innings. Ryan Pressly (2-3) threw just one pitch in the sixth, but it resulted in an inning-ending double play at the plate.
Seth Smith tried to scored on Cruz’s fly to short center. Another botched opportunity.
"A tough way to lose a game," Servais said, "but we had many chances early in this game to break it open and didn’t really take advantage of it."
PLAY OF THE GAME: Actually, it was before the game. Nelson Cruz hit a ball out of Safeco Field — actually out of the left-field side of the stadium and onto Royal Brougham Way.
Club officials could not recall that happening since Safeco opened in 1999.
Cruz’s drive is something that Brougham, the long-time sports editor of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, would have enjoyed seeing and writing about. Brougham died in 1978 at the age of 84.
PLUS: When Robinson Cano walked in the third inning, it extended his streak of reaching base at least once to 26 games. He also had a single in the sixth…Mike Montgomery pitched two scoreless innings after replacing an ineffective Wade Miley…Franklin Gutierrez, who was at the plate when the game ended, was 2-for-4 and has seven hits in his last 17 at-bats.
MINUS: The Mariners produced three straight pop-ups with the bases loaded in the third inning from their four-five-six hitters (Nelson Cruz, Kyle Seager and Adam Lind)…the Mariners have seven of their last eight games against the Twins at Safeco Field.
STAT PACK: Nori Aoki led off a first inning with a homer for the fifth time in his career. His previous one was Aug. 26, 2015 while playing for San Francisco in the bottom of the first inning against the Chicago Cubs.
Aoki is the fourth player in the franchise’s 40-year history whose first homer with the Mariners came while leading off a first inning. The others: Jack Perconte (1985), Rickey Henderson (2000) and Austin Jackson (2013).
QUOTABLE: Kyle Seager chose to break for second base when a second pitch got away from Twins catcher Juan Centeno in the ninth inning after not doing so on an earlier opportunity.
"I should have gone on the first one," Seager said. "It probably would have been a little bit better. It couldn’t have been worse, I guess."
SHORT HOPS: Minnesota first baseman Joe Mauer has homers in back-to-back games for the first time since 2009…Twins catcher Kurt Suzuki left the game in the third inning because of concussion-like symptoms, although he subsequently passed the concussion protocol.
Bob Dutton: @TNT_Mariners