Most of the 39,518 at Safeco Field had to have seen this before. Sure, the Seattle Mariners were trailing, but they’ve made a habit out of thriving in the dramatics.
They had their chances and most of what occurred in the final innings looked like vintage 2018 Mariners, except for the final score.
But maybe this says more about how clutch the Mariners have been most of this season, and how easy they’ve made their late-inning, high-leverage prowess appear. In this one, Mike Leake dug the Mariners in an early hole and they didn’t get enough of the big hits they needed late in a 7-4 loss to the Los Angeles Angels on Wednesday.
The Mariners (55-32) will erase this one from their memory banks – and the seven extra-base knocks the Angels had out of their 13 total hits – but Seattle’s season-high eight-game win streak also erased.
“We just couldn’t get the big hit with guys in scoring position,” Mariners shortstop Jean Segura said. “It’s going to happen once in a while. We always expect good things to happen – today was just not our day.”
The Mariners were 2-for-12 with runners in scoring position. They had the bases loaded with no outs in the seventh inning, the first two runners aboard in the eighth and again in the ninth – yet one run to show for it.
Entering the game, the Mariners were tied with the Blue Jays for the most go-ahead RBI (23) in the seventh inning or later of any team in the majors.
“It’s been that kind of season – we really did think someone was going to pop one out of the ball park,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said. “But you have to give their guys credit. They calmed it down and made pitches to get out of those jams.”
The Mariners struck out 15 times – out of 27 total outs.
And Leake detracted from his past two strong starts, allowing nine hits and four runs (three earned) in four-plus innings.
Then the late happenings.
Seattle had the bases loaded, no outs, trailing by three runs in the seventh inning – same ol’ 2018 Mariners coming up. Denard Span entered as a pinch hitter almost three weeks after his go-ahead, pinch-hit, two run double erased a once three-run deficit against the Boston Red Sox at Safeco Field.
Span struck out.
No worries. Dee Gordon stepped to the plate next and he entered the day as the Mariners’ best hitter in high-leverage situations, batting .449, just ahead of Nelson Cruz (.396).
Gordon struck out.
OK, still one more chance with .334-hitting Jean Segura. He lined what seemed a sure two-run single up the middle, but Angels second baseman David Fletcher, starting in the place of Ian Kinsler, leaped from the outfield grass to rob runs and end the inning – the Mariners still trailing 6-3.
“That felt like (a hit),” Segura said. “Then it wasn’t. He made a really good play.”
Servais worked for the Angels when they drafted Fletcher in the sixth round in 2015.
“If that ball drops …,” Servais said. “There were like four or five of those in the game that just didn’t go our way.
“But we competed our tails off and if we continue to do that, that’s why we’re in the position we’re in. Our guys just keep playing hard all of the time.”
The Mariners did get a run the following inning after Mitch Haniger’s leadoff double and Kyle Seager’s RBI single – after Seager and Ryon Healy hit back-to-back home runs in the second inning. But two strikeouts later – a Mariners offensive trend this game – ended the frame.
Mike Zunino led off with a single and Span doubled in the bottom of the ninth to set up the top of the Mariners’ order, but Gordon flew out, Segura grounded into a fielder’s choice, with Zunino tagged out at the plate, and Haniger grounded out to end it.
“We have a really good thing going here and guys are disappointed,” Servais said. “We didn’t get the big hit to win the game or tie it up somehow, but keep doing this and I like our chances.”
Things went the Angels’ way on the other side, too.
They scored first after Shohei Ohtani reached on Chris Herrmann’s catcher’s interference and then scored when Luis Valbuena shot a double to the left field corner, with Ben Gamel shifted well into left-center field. Ohtani crossed the plate from first base easily.
Seager and Healy erased that, first with Seager jumping on a 2-0 fastball for his 16th home run of the season and Healy followed with a solo shot to left. For the first time this season, the Mariners have hit back-to-back home runs.
The downhill part followed.
The Mariners crushed those two Richards fastballs, but got a heavy dosage of breaking balls after.
“A lot of breaking balls,” Segura said. “We chased a lot of breaking balls out of the zone and they have some guys who throw hard on the mound. You aren’t expecting them to throw so many breaking balls.”
Said Servais: “We know that now, and (Thursday) we’ll make an adjustment and control the zone.”
The Mariners had been wanting to get some of their relievers into games. They just didn’t expect it to come in a situation like this, especially considering Leake had pitched at least six innings in each of his previous eight starts.
He had allowed two runs over his past two starts (15 innings) against the Red Sox and Orioles and had a 2.22 ERA over his previous eight starts.
The Angels weren’t so impressed.
Leake sat them down 1-2-3 in the first inning but faced trouble in each of the next three, including three consecutive hits against him in both the fourth and fifth innings. They hit at least one extra-base hit off of him in the second, third, fourth and fifth.
The Mariners’ 2-1 lead evaporated and morphed into a 4-2 Los Angeles lead when Mike Trout doubled and then scored on Albert Pujols’ single in the fifth.
That ended Leake’s day after nine hits in four-plus innings and the Angels still had runners at the corners.
“It wasn’t my best – I didn’t have my best stuff today,” Leake said. “I was just trying to battle through it.”
Angels outfielder Kole Calhoun, who entered the day batting .171, hit a two-run homer against Rumbelow in the sixth to make it 6-2, Angels, as part of his three-hit day.
“That’s why you win eight games in a row. You want to say it’s your offense, it’s starting pitching and a really solid bullpen and that’s what we’d been leaning on,” Servais said.
“The goal is to win the series. And we got an opportunity to do that (Thursday) and we’ll go from there.”
Play of the game
The Mariners had the bases loaded, no outs, in the seventh inning, trailing 6-3 and up next were three of their most clutch hitters – Denard Span, Dee Gordon and Jean Segura.
Span and Gordon each struck out, but Segura laced what he and the rest of Safeco Field had to believe was a two-run single into short center field until second baseman David Fletcher leaps in the outfield grass to rob him and end the inning.
“I was over with the Angels when we drafted David Fletcher,” Servais said. “Really heads-up player. Young guy trying to prove his worth. His baseball IQ is very high. Great play at that point in the game.”
The Angels’ Kole Calhoun was batting .171 entering the game.
He ended it going 3-for-5 with three RBI, including a two-run home run off of Nick Rumbelow in the sixth inning to give the Angels a 6-2 lead.
For the Mariners, Kyle Seager and Ryon Healy hit back-to-back home runs in the second inning and each finished 2-for-4. Seager added an RBI single in the eighth inning.
Angels starter Garrett Richards, in his first start since suffering a hamstring injury his last time out at Safeco Field, struck out eight batters in 5 1/3 innings and allowed four hits.
Angels pitchers struck out 15 batters – out of 27 total outs – in the game. Mike Zunino has the highest strikeout rate on the Mariners, but he was the only batter not to strike out.
Roenis Elias pitched a scoreless ninth inning for the Mariners, while Chasen Bradford and Nick Vincent each allowed a hit but didn’t allow runs in their one-inning frames.
Nick Rumbelow and Roenis Elias hadn't pitched since June 22, Bradford since June 27 and Vincent since June 28.
“We’ve been able to make plays – when you’re on an eight-game win streak, balls turn into double plays and your shortstop gets there in time (speaking of Albert Pujols’ ground ball that got just underneath diving Jean Segura for a run in the fifth inning),” Servais said. “It’s different things like that. It happens.”
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