This, with the Seattle Mariners trailing by three runs with two outs and a runner on third base in the bottom of the ninth inning, was not the most ideal conclusion for the home team on Sunday afternoon.
There was star second baseman Robinson Cano sliding into second base, and there was the throw from Texas Rangers right-fielder Nomar Mazara. The ball got there first. Cano was out. His RBI single into the right-field corner — and failed attempt to make it a double — wound up the final play in Seattle’s 6-4 loss to the division-leading Rangers, and it prompted an obvious question.
Couldn’t Cano have run a little harder on that play?
Perhaps. But a look at the replay shows that Cano’s shin guard had come loose — he said it happened about halfway between first and second base — and that, he said, prevented him from running full speed. And he said he didn’t think returning to first was a preferable alternative at that point.
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“I had to slow down,” Cano sad, “because I don’t want to roll my ankle or anything. It’s not a situation you want to end the game.”
Certainly not. Cano’s hit scored Ketel Marte, who had doubled with one out against Texas closer Sam Dyson, from third base. Star slugger Nelson Cruz, who would have represented the tying run, was on deck.
Instead, the Mariners lost right then and there, and here’s how much can change in a matter of 20 or so hours: the Mariners on Saturday night were one out away from clinching a victory of this three-game series, one out away from turning Sunday’s game into a sweep-seeking venture.
But after victory eluded them in agonizing fashion on Saturday — Prince Fielder’s two-out homer forced extra innings and the Mariners lost in 11 — Seattle concluded its weekend series with another frustrating defeat. They fall to 34-29, now five games behind the Rangers in the American League West standings.
“They made a good play,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said of the final throw. “That stuff happens. Disappointing. Would have liked to see Nellie get a shot there, but again, give our guys a lot of credit, we hung in there.”
Until the Mariners scored two runs in the eighth and one in the ninth, this was mostly a dud. The Rangers scored three runs with two outs in the top of the fourth inning, the highlight being Mitch Moreland’s two-run home run just over the fence in left-center field.
After starting pitcher Wade Miley departed after five innings, the Rangers added another three runs in the sixth against Seattle’s bullpen. Mariners right-hander Steve Johnson faced three batters. He walked the first two and allowed a double to the third, shortstop Elvis Andrus, who drove in left fielder Ryan Rua from second base.
Left-hander Vidal Nuno entered the game and struck out Moreland before walking Robinson Chirinos and coaxing an infield popup from leadoff hitter Jurickson Profar. But center fielder Ian Desmond piped a two-out single into center field, scoring Fielder and Andrus, and the Rangers led 6-1.
Miley labored through five innings on 97 pitches. He struck out six batters, walked three and allowed four hits, three of which came in the fourth inning. Rua had the first of those — a single — then moved to second base on a wild pitch before scoring on Andrus’ double. Moreland immediately followed with his two-run homer.
Miley said his fastball simply wasn’t there.
“He’d be the first to admit he didn’t have his best stuff today,” Servais said.
Seattle’s first run came via the bat of center fielder Leonys Martin, who hit a towering shot to right-center with one out in the fifth.
But that was all the Mariners could get against Texas starter Cole Hamels, who allowed only four hits in seven innings. Seattle hinted at scoring a time or two — the Mariners moved runners into scoring position in the third, fourth and seventh — but none of those rallies went anywhere.
They fared better against the Rangers’ bullpen. They loaded the bases with two outs in the bottom of the eighth, then pushed a pair of runs across after left-handed reliever Jake Diekman hit Kyle Seager with a pitch and walked Chris Iannetta on four pitches. But Martin grounded out to second base to put a cap on the damage.
“We had some chances throughout the series to try to get over the hump,” Servais said. “It just didn’t happen.”
PLAY OF THE GAME: Cano’s single in the ninth brought the Mariners within two runs, and with Cruz on deck, the best play might have been to retreat to first base and at least give Seattle’s cleanup hitter a chance to tie the game.
But Cano felt he was too far toward second base to try to scramble back toward first, and with his shin guard flapping away from his leg, the result was an obvious out at second.
“It was a weird play,” Servais said. “You’ve got to give their guy credit. He made a good throw.”
PLUS: The Mariners got to Texas’ bullpen for three runs in two innings. … Martin hit his first home run since being activated from the disabled list on Friday. … Seth Smith had a pinch-hit single in the eighth inning and wound up scoring. … Nuno pitched three innings in relief, a season high, and didn’t allow a run.
MINUS: Dae-Ho Lee went 0 for 4 with three strikeouts against the lefty Hamels. … The Mariners went 2 for 10 with runners in scoring position and stranded eight men on base.
STAT PACK: Martin became the fifth Mariners player to hit his 10th home run of the season (Cano, Cruz, Seager and Lee are the others). No other team has that many players with 10 or more homers.
QUOTABLE: “It was just a good win for us, especially against this team and how close they are to us. I know we don’t play them again for a while. I have a feeling when we come back and play them again, it’s going to be really tight, and they’re going to be really important games.” – Hamels on the Mariners.