TEMPE, Ariz. — The final inning Tuesday when the Mariners and Los Angeles Angels settled for a 4-4 had no shortage of drama.
Dario Pizzano hit a two-out homer in the top of the ninth that provided he Mariners with a one-run lead, but Jonathan Aro yielded a leadoff triple to Craig Gentry in the bottom of the inning.
After Gentry scored on a Geovany Soto’s one-out sacrifice fly, the two clubs opted not to play extra innings.
That was mere epilogue to one of the strangest plays you’ll ever see, which occurred with one out in the Mariners’ fifth inning.
Stefen Romero was at first base after a third straight single when Kyle Seager lofted a fly to deep left field.
Daniel Nava caught the ball, turned and flipped the ball into the crowd. An undeniable brain cramp. Romero stopped briefly near second base before continuing onto third — a standard one-base advance on a dead-ball error.
Romero never returned to first base to tag up, which is what would have entitled him to go to second base before advancing to third base. Another mistake.
Angels reliever Mike Morin got a new ball, stepped off the mound and threw to first for an appeal play. Romero was out, and the inning was over. What had been an error on Nava was no more.
"(Seager) hit it," Romero said, "and I’m going halfway because there’s one out. (Nava) catches it, and I saw him turn around and throw it into the stands. My reaction is that it’s a dead ball, just keep going."
The umpires didn’t help by pointing to third.
But the Angels knew the rule. So did third-base coach Manny Acta.
"Manny said, `They’re going to appeal,’" Romero said. "`You needed to go back and touch the bag. You’re going to be out.’ When I got to third, I knew I was going to be out.
"It was just a messed-up play all around."
Before that, the Mariners bunched two-out singles by Stefen Romero, Kyle Seager and Dae-Ho Lee for one run in the first inning against Andrew Heaney.
The lead didn’t last.
Yunel Escobar and Nava opened the LA first inning with successive doubles against Cody Martin, who drew the start when the Mariners opted to have Wade Miley face minor-leagues on a back field in Peoria.
The Angels took the lead in the third inning after Mike Trout led off with a double. Martin retired Albert Pujols, but Kole Calhoun flicked an RBI single into center field.
The Mariners answered against submarining reliever Joe Smith in the fourth when Daniel Robertson, a former Angel, punched a two-run double past first base with two outs.
Nava’s two-out RBI singled pulled the Angels later in the fourth. It stayed 3-3 until the ninth.
PLAY OF THE GAME: First baseman Stefen Romero made a diving two-out stop on a grounder by Daniel Nava with runners at second and third in the second inning. Romero beat Nava to the base and saved two runs.
PLUS: Right-hander Donn Roach struck out six while pitching three scoreless innings. He figures to be part of the Triple-A Tacoma rotation…Romero had singles in his first three at-bats and is batting .480 at 12-for-25 in 11 games…Dae-Ho Lee had an RBI single and a double in his first two at-bats after entering the game at 4-for-18.
MINUS: Ketel Marte paid a price for downshifting out of the box on a grounder to third base in the first inning when Yunel Escobar bobbled and dropped the ball. Escobar had enough time to retrieve the ball and throw out Marte at first base…reliever Justin De Fratus had another shaky outing, although just one run in his two innings. He gave up three hits and a walk while also throwing a wild pitch, which led to the run.
STAT PACK: Right-hander Cody Martin, who also is likely to open the season at Tacoma, allowed two runs and six hits in three innings. He threw 33 strikes among his 54 pitches.
"This is what I want," he said, "being the guy who is kind of on the fringe to make the club. It’s a big opportunity for me. It didn’t go as planned, but I think I battled well."
QUOTABLE: "You don’t see it too often," Kyle Seager deadpanned when asked whether he’d ever seen a play like the one that resulted in his fly ball in the fifth turning into a double play.
SHORT HOPS: Lefty Wade Miley breezed through four shutout innings against minor-leaguers in 40 pitches, including 31 strikes. He allowed one hit, walked none and struck out four…The Mariners are releasing their 2016 commercials on Wednesday…
UP NEXT: The Mariners and San Francisco Giants are offering a rematch of the starting pitchers from last Saturday’s game in Scottsdale at 1:10 p.m. Wednesday at Peoria Stadium.
Right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma will pitch against Giants right-hander Jeff Samardzija. Iwakuma is slotted for four innings in what will be his third spring start.
Lefty Mike Montgomery is also scheduled to pitch for the first time since being reassigned to the bullpen. Also scheduled: Vidal Nuno, Mayckol Guaipe and Jonathan Aro.
Bob Dutton: @TNT_Mariners