Next-to-last, it seems, isn’t good enough for the Mariners. They appear bent on becoming the worst baserunning club in the majors.
Thursday’s 7-4 loss to the Oakland Athletics included two more baserunning blunders and, even worse, both resulted in the first out of an inning.
The Mariners trailed 3-0 when Mitch Haniger, after a leadoff double, tried to advance to third on Jarrod Dyson’s fly ball to center.
"At that point," Haniger said, "it’s still early in the game. I thought it was deep enough, but the guy made a great throw. So I just kind of tip my hat."
The guy was Jaycob Brugman. It was a strong throw. Haniger was out easily. One rival scout at the game wondered: "What was he thinking? You go there, you have to be sure you can make it. Not think you can make it. Sure."
An inning later, with the Mariners still trailing by three runs, Jean Segura led off with a single. One of his four hits. Then he tried to sucker Oakland rookie pitcher Paul Blackburn by breaking for second. Blackburn trapped Segura for the out.
The heart of the Mariners’ lineup was coming up.
There’s no guarantee that the Mariners turn those opportunities into runs, but there might be nothing that sucks the life out of a scoring opportunity like a baserunning mistake.
The Mariners make way too many of them.
A story earlier this week in The News Tribune outlined the their baserunning problems. Only Toronto ranks worse than the Mariners in the BsR rating, a metric that seeks to measure a club’s baserunning performance.
That gap is closing.
"We are giving a lot of free outs away on the bases," manager Scott Servais agreed. "We’re kind of doing it to ourselves. We’re better than this. We’ve got to figure it out. We’ve got to get after it. It starts (Friday)."
Presumably he meant making better baserunning decisions. Not pushing the Blue Jays out of the cellar.
Three takeaways from Thursday’s loss:
***Haniger perks up: Despite his baserunning mistake, Haniger eased growing concerns by snapping out of a 0-for-15 skid with a double and home run in four at-bats.
The homer was to right field, which means he was able to stay on a pitch that was up and away. Even Haniger admitted, "I wouldn’t have been able to do that the past couple of days."
***The hit collector: Similarly, Segura compensated for his baserunning mistake by by getting four hits for the third time in five games and boosting his average to .354.
Segura leads leads the American League in batting even though he is nine plate appearances shy of the qualifying standard. Adding an 0-for-9 to Segura’s total would drop his average to .341, which is still the best in the league.
***Valencia answers: Blackburn shackled the Mariners by yielding just one run, Haniger’s homer, in 7 2/3 innings, but it’s doubtful they regret making the Nov. 12 trade that sent him to Oakland.
First baseman Danny Valencia, whom the Mariners acquired in the deal, had two sparkling defensive plays in addition to a three-run homer in the ninth inning. One play was a 3-5-3 double play that Valencia makes with ease.
Valencia is providing the Mariners with more than they could have reasonably expected. In addition to his stellar defensive play at first base, he is batting .272 with nine homers and 43 RBIs in 78 games.
Take away an early-season slump, and his numbers look even better: .308 with nine homers and 39 RBIs in his last 60 games.
Bob Dutton: @TNT_Mariners