The Mariners lost Sunday to Kansas City, 4-1, in a game that took three hours and 14 minutes to play and seven seconds to decide.
Unable to get anything going through five innings against starter Ian Kennedy, the Mariners were trailing, 3-0, when they finally mustered a no-outs, bases-loaded threat requiring the intervention of lefty reliever Danny Duffy. He struck out Dae-Ho Lee and Kyle Seager before the right-handed hitting Chris Ianetta lined an opposite-field single in front of right fielder Jarrod Dyson.
The runner on third, Seth Smith, trotted home to make the score 3-1, and Robinson Cano, on second, had a green light to follow him. Good idea, bad result. Dyson delivered a terrific throw that beat Cano to the plate, and what might have been a Mariners rally, became, instead, another example of why the two-time defending American League champion Kansas City Royals are also the defending World Series champions.
Dyson, playing shallow, was in the right place, at the right time. He might lack the power bat associated with an outfielder, but like the rest of the Royals, Dyson more than compensates for what he doesn’t do.
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“Dyson is deceiving with his arm,” Royals manager Ned Yost said after the win. “People think he’s a little speed guy but he’s got a right fielder’s arm out there. He comes up and makes really strong and accurate throws. That was a big one there. That’s the difference between the game being 3-1 or 3-2, and he made a perfect throw.”
You’d assume that making such a play hinges on a quick glove-to-hand transition for the throw home. Not for Dyson.
“I just wanted to take my time and make sure I fielded it because I knew where the runners were,” he said. “I know Cano is not the fastest, but you want to make sure you field it first and the rest is history.
“You’ve got a catcher back there who can scoop a ball any way you throw it,” Dyson went on, referring to Salvador Perez. “I’m blessed to have a guy like that behind the plate. I’m sure he’s going to pick me up a lot this year. Every throw is not going to be on the line, but I hope so.”
Despite the Mariners’ inability to deliver a key hit Sunday — or, ahem, score multiple runs when they got a key hit with the bases loaded — manager Scott Servais looked at the weekend in big-picture terms and liked what he saw: Large, enthusiastic crowds enjoying perfect weather for three games between what appeared to be a pair of evenly matched teams.
The Mariners were held to a lone hit Friday night and still won because the hit was a homer in a 1-0 shutout, then enjoyed the career-pinnacle performance of lefty Wade Miley on Saturday in a 6-0 victory. And though the scheduled start of pitcher Taijuan Walker gave the May Day crowd of 37,053 reason to believe a sweep was imminent, sooner or later champs resemble champs.
Losers of five in a row, the Royals were bound to break a scoreless streak that began against the Angels in California and reached 27 innings before Omar Infante connected for a two-out RBI single in the top of the second Sunday.
“They’re a good team,” said Servais. “I’ve said it every day we’ve played them — that’s not gonna change. They’ve been there. They’ve done it. They’ve played together for a few years and know each other very well and they jell well together. But I like our club, too. We had a good series.
“It’s not gonna get done every day. But we keep putting pressure on the other team, creating opportunities, that’s what excites me about our team. We keep grinding and that’s what we did today.”
As is Kansas City, the Mariners are 13-11. At the same juncture a year ago, under former manager Lloyd McClendon, they were 10-14. A difference of three games — three victories that might have been defeats during the first month of 2015 — is all it has taken to envision playoff contention in September.
Do the math: The regular season is six months long. Three victories multiplied by six is 18. If the Mariners sustain the pattern, the 76-86 record that led to McClendon’s firing will improve to 94-68.
But that’s far down the road. In the meantime, Servais wants the Mariners to keep grinding, figuring out ways to win and not stressing too much about those occasions they couldn’t convert a bases-loaded hit into their only chance to win.
“A big point in the game,” Servais said of Dyson’s throw. “It would have been a big run with the momentum going in our favor, but they made a play. That happens in the big leagues.”
Especially when the Kansas City Royals are in town.