Mariners Insider Blog

Opportunity lost: Mariners miss chance to climb above .500

Minnesota center fielder Byron Buxton took extra bases away from Robinson Cano with a leaping two-out catch in the fifth inning with runners at first and third.
Minnesota center fielder Byron Buxton took extra bases away from Robinson Cano with a leaping two-out catch in the fifth inning with runners at first and third. AP

No late magic Thursday for the Mariners.

This time when Mike Zunino hit the ball on the screws, the result was a rally-killing double play in a 2-1 loss to the Minnesota Twins at Safeco Field.

Zunino hit a two-run walk-off homer in Wednesday’s comeback victory, and he had another chance to play hero Thursday when he came to the plate in the eighth inning with one out and runners at first and second.

And Zunino seemed to deliver again when he drove a rocket back through the box — until Twins reliever Taylor Rogers speared the ball on the fly, turned and threw to second for an inning-ending double play.

"I was hoping it was through," Zunino said. "It looked like I hit it right into his glove. They don’t all fall when they need to."

Robinson Cano was doubled off second base. He had opened the inning with a single and moved to second on Kyle Seager’s one-out single. Cano was almost midway to third when Rogers made the catch.

"How many times you see a pitcher make that catch?" Cano asked. "Maybe one out of 50 times."

It capped a rough night for Cano, who made two errors on a play that allowed the Twins to score what proved to be the winning run and got robbed of an extra-base hit and two likely RBIs on a Byron Buxton catch.

More on that in a moment.

Brandon Kintzler served up Zunino’s homer on Wednesday but, a day later, he protected a one-run lead in the ninth inning for his 16th save in 19 chance.

The loss snapped the Mariners’ five-game winning streak and prevented them from climbing above .500 this season for the first time. It also kept them from a completing three-game sweep over the Twins.

Minnesota starter Kyle Gibson (3-4) entered the game with a a 7.23 ERA but held the Mariners to one run in six innings before leaving after Taylor Motter’s leadoff single in the seventh.

Matt Belisle replaced Gibson and retired three straight hitters without the ball leaving the infield. Rogers and Kintzler then closed it out.

Mariners starter Christian Bergman (3-3) escaped a first-and-third jam in a long first inning the Max Kepler fouled out to Zunino at the back screen.

The Twins put runners at first and third again with two outs in the third inning, but Bergman struck out Miguel Sano on three pitches.

"They had some tough at-bats," Bergman said. "It was hard to put guys away. Its as an uphill battle the rest of the way just trying to get through five innings. I did my best to minimize (the damage) and keep it a close game."

Minnesota still struck first when Jason Castro golfed an 0-1 slider into the right-field seats with two outs in the fourth inning for a 1-0 lead.

"Right pitch, wrong location," Bergman said. "I got it down and in, where he likes it. He did some damage on it."

The Twins stretched their lead to 2-0 in the fifth when Cano made those two errors. There were two outs with a runner at second when Cano booted Joe Mauer’s grounder for the first error.

When Ehire Adrianza rounded wide at third base, Cano short-hopped a throw to Seager at third for the second error. Adrianza scored.

"A little hop (on Mauer’s grounder)," Cano said, "but I should make that play. I’ve made that play before. It’s part of the game. I wouldn’t say I rushed (the throw). I’m not perfect. I make mistakes."

The Mariners answered by scoring their only run later in the fifth after Jarrod Dyson led off with a triple into the right-field corner. He scored on Ben Gamel’s one-out sacrifice fly.

Cano nearly atoned for his errors with a two-out liner to deep center with runners at first and third, but Buxton retreated and made a leaping catch.

"I crushed that ball," Cano said, "but that’s a guy who can run and jump."

PLAY OF THE GAME: Rogers’ catch on Zunino’s liner was something of the look-what-I-found variety, but Buxton’s leaping catch on Cano’s two-out drive was fabulous display of skill and speed.

PLUS: The bullpen delivered four more scoreless innings. It has allowed just eight earned runs in 58 innings (a 1.24 ERA) over the last 16 games…Guillermo Heredia and Seager each had two of the Mariners’ four hits…Bergman has allowed two or fewer runs in four of his six starts.

MINUS: Gamel’s hitting streak ended at 10 games when he went hitless in three at-bats, although he drove in the Mariners’ only run with a sacrifice fly…Zunino had his third passed ball of the season.

STAT PACK: Cano had just one error this season in 49 defensive games before committing two on the same play in the fifth inning. It was the fifth time in his career that he’s committed more than one error in a game. The other four occasions were when he was playing for the Yankees.

QUOTABLE: Buxton’s catch changed the game.

"He’s a special athlete," Servais said. "He’s as good as it gets in our game in how he runs and can run balls down in the outfield. As fast as Dyson is in the outfield, Buxton’s stride is more like probably what Junior (Griffey) looked like here running around a few years ago."

SHORT HOPS: The Mariners were 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position, but the Twins were 0-for-10…Gibson has won three straight decisions and is 3-2 with a 2.72 ERA in seven career starts against the Mariners.

ON DECK: The Mariners and Blue Jays open a three-game weekend series at 7:10 p.m. Friday at Safeco Field. Right-hander Sam Gaviglio (2-1 with a 3.13 ERA) will oppose Toronto right-hander Joe Biagini (1-4, 3.31).

The game can be seen on Root Sports Northwest and heard on 710 ESPN and the Mariners Radio Network.

Bob Dutton: @TNT_Mariners