Early runs continued to cost the Mariners on Sunday as they dropped a second consecutive loss to the Los Angeles Angels.
Solo homers from Albert Pujols and C.J. Cron in the first inning were enough to put away Seattle, 4-2, at Safeco Field.
“The mistakes we made on the mound, they did not hit singles, they hit the ball out of the ballpark,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said. “It’s tough to overcome the home runs.”
Dropping eight of their past 10 games, the Mariners (69-67) are drifting away from playoff contention.
“We have not played, I would say, ‘our game,’ in the last 10 to 12 ballgames,” Servais said.
But playoff races and pitching woes quickly became secondary in the second inning, when Angels starter Matt Shoemaker exited the game with a terrifying injury. After retiring four straight batters, striking out two, Kyle Seager hit a line drive on a 3-2 fastball that struck Shoemaker in the head.
With almost no time to react — the ball came off of Seager’s bat at 105 mph — Shoemaker turned, and the ball hit the right side of his head, popped up into the air and landed near Seattle’s dugout on the first-base side.
Shoemaker stumbled briefly before sitting down, though he remained conscious as trainers immediately rushed to the mound. After several minutes, Shoemaker walked off the field with trainers on either side of him and a towel pressed to his head.
He later was transported to a local hospital, alert and responsive, with a laceration to his head. The initial diagnosis was a slight skull fracture. It was announced that he will see a neurologist and be kept overnight for observation.
“That’s awful,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. “You kind of have to catch your breath for a second. We’re relieved to hear that it looks like everything is under control with Matt as far as what’s happening. … It just gives you that feeling where you have a pit in your stomach.”
Seager stood near first base, visibly shaken, talking to other Angels players as Shoemaker was examined. He said he sent Shoemaker a text message and hopes that he’s doing OK.
“That was terrifying,” Seager said. “That was probably the scariest thing I’ve ever seen on a baseball field. Our thoughts and prayers go out to him. That’s well bigger than baseball. That was real.”
Shoemaker gave a slight wave to the crowd at Safeco Field, which stood and applauded as he walked into the dugout. Los Angeles used six relievers to finish the final 8 2/3 innings.
Deolis Guerra (3-0, 2.76 ERA) picked up the win for the Angels, pitching 1 2/3 innings and allowing one hit.
Seattle’s Hisashi Iwakuma (14-11, 4.01) — still searching for his 15th win, which would match his career high — took the loss after pitching seven innings, allowing three runs on eight hits and striking out four.
Servais said Iwakuma recovered nicely.
“The first inning, both of those pitches were up in the zone — a fastball and a slider up in the zone,” Iwakuma said through translator Antony Suzuki. “You don’t want to give up any more runs than two going forward, so just being aware to keep the balls down in the zone and attacking hitters, that approach got me through seven innings.”
The Mariners offense had trouble providing support. Runners were left on base multiple times. Robinson Cano, who hit a solo homer in the sixth, and Nelson Cruz, who did the same in the eighth, produced Seattle’s runs. The Mariners never led.
“We’ve got our backs up against the wall, and I said it about a month or so ago — we have nothing to lose,” Servais said. “We ultimately have nothing to lose right now.”
PLAY OF THE GAME: Pujols’ long ball with two outs in the first inning set the pace for Los Angeles. He ripped a 1-0 slider over the left field fence for his 29th home run of the season.
Pujols is now ninth on the all-time list with 589. He is 20 home runs behind former Cubs slugger Sammy Sosa.
PLUS: Iwakuma worked six more productive innings after being tagged for the two home runs in the first. He went through the minimum number of batters during four consecutive innings at one point, and allowed only one more run.
MINUS: The Mariners left the bases loaded in the fourth inning when Leonys Martin flew out to end the inning. Seattle stranded six runners total, and finished 0 for 5 with runners in scoring position.
STAT PACK: With the home run and a single in the fourth, Cano has hit safely in eight consecutive games — and 17 of his past 19. He is batting .382 with 13 runs and 10 RBIs since Aug. 18.
QUOTABLE: Seager said the outcome of the game was secondary and that he was first and foremost concerned about Shoemaker:
“It’s kind of like ‘Screw baseball, who cares about the game?’ You’re just worried about him. You see him sitting there on the ground with all of the trainers and doctors out there. You know, you really don’t care much about a stupid game at that point.”
SHORT HOPS: Cruz’s blast was his 35th homer of the season. He has homered in three straight games. It’s the fourth time in his career that he has hit a home run in at least three consecutive games. … Cruz has hit 36 career home runs against the Angels — the most against any opponent in his career.