ARLINGTON, Texas — Here on Sunday, finally, the Mariners got a much-needed strong outing from a starting pitcher and what happens? They threw the game away in a 3-2 loss to the Texas Rangers at Globe Life Park.
No hyperbole. Threw it away.
The Mariners made at least three defensive miscues in a three-run Texas fifth inning, but the most galling — the one that turned the game — was a looping throw to the plate by left fielder Stefen Romero.
"Frustrating," Romero admitted. "It’s a pitchers’ duel. Hits are at a premium. So whoever got lackadaisical…They just capitalized on our errors."
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Oh, boy, didn’t they? Let’s reset.
The Rangers already had already scored once and had runners at first and third with one out when Bobby Wilson sent a routine fly to short left field. As Romero made the catch, Elvis Andrus took a few tentative steps off third.
"I anticipated it, saw my little window and took it," Andrus said. "He’s a young guy, and he’s not just a left fielder. He’s played (several positions). It gave me the idea that he might not do what he needs to do right away."
When Romero soft-tossed the ball toward third baseman Kyle Seager, the cut-off man, Andrus shifted to a sprint and beat the throw for the tying run.
"Routine play," manager Scott Servais said. "Catch it. Get it into the infield. I’m not sure what (Romero) was thinking there. In the big leagues, you have to come physically and mentally ready to play every day.
"These are the best players in the world. When you let down a little bit mentally, it’ll get you."
Romero had a chance to redeem himself when Jared Hoying tried to score from second on Jurickson Profar’s ensuing single to left. Romero appeared to have a play at the plate — but he overran the ball for an error.
"I guess (the earlier play) was in the back of my mind," Romero said. "It’s two outs, so he’s running on the swing. So I knew I had a good chance if I get to it early.
"I broke right off the chute, and I just didn’t time it up correctly. It hit the bottom of my glove."
Texas had a 3-2 lead. And that’s how it ended.
It meant the Mariners wasted a fine effort by Hisashi Iwakuma, who gave up just one earned run in seven-plus innings — a sharp contrast for a rotation that hemorrhaged 67 runs in 71 innings over the previous 13 games.
Servais said Iwakuma was "the best he’s been all year," and Iwakuma agreed.
"I did lose the game today," he said, "but I was able to make pitches when I needed to. I was able to execute. I was able to control the running game. In general, yes, I think it was my best game so far."
The loss provided a fitting end to a dreadful weekend that saw the Mariners enter the series tied with the Rangers atop the American League West but limp back Sunday night to Seattle trailing Texas by three games.
"Disappointing series," Servais said. "We didn’t play well. We didn’t play well on the whole road trip. We had a great come-from-behind win (in San Diego). Other than that, not much to speak of."
When Iwakuma (4-5) navigated around a leadoff single in a scoreless first inning, it marked the first time in five games the Mariners didn’t enter the second in a three-run hole.
It stayed 0-0 until the fourth inning when, with a runner at first, Nelson Cruz crushed a 3-1 sinker from Texas starter Derek Holland for a 447-foot homer to left-center field. The Mariners led 2-0.
Iwakuma retired 12 in a row before Rougned Odor opened the Texas fifth inning with a bunt single by sliding around the tag of first baseman Dae-Ho Lee.
The inning started slipping away when shortstop Luis Sardinas booted Andrus’ routine one-out grounder. That error was also instrumental in the inning. It put runners at first and second.
"It’s a tough play," Servais said. "It’s a big-league play. You come get it. It’s not an easy play, but Luis is an accomplished shortstop. I’m sure he thinks he should have made it as well."
Hoying then punched an RBI single to left that made it 2-1, which brought Wilson to the plate and…well…yeah. Not good.
That one-run lead was enough for Holland (5-4) and the Rangers’ bullpen. Holland pitched through the seventh inning before exiting after permitting just three hits.
Matt Bush and Jake Diekman combined for a scoreless eighth inning before Sam Dyson closed out Texas’ weekend sweep and gained his seventh save.
PLAY OF THE GAME: Everything turned on Stefen Romero’s lolly-pop throw to the infield after making a catch in short left field in the fifth inning with one out and runners at first and third.
Elvis Andrus scored on the play and, also key, Jared Hoying moved from first to second.
"Shallow-hit ball," Romero said. "I was coming in hard. Caught it. My first instinct was (Andrus) is s probably going to fake-break. So, I caught it and came up. There was no movement.
"So I kind of double-pumped and threw it in and just tried to hit (third baseman Kyle) Seager. That’s when (Andrus) took off…If I had to do it again, I’d just get it and throw it in. Even if he’s not running."
The play also permitted Hoying to advance to second, which proved decisive when Jurickson Profar followed with a single to left. Hoying scored what proved to be the winning run.
PLUS: Hisashi Iwakuma limited the Rangers to one earned run in seven-plus innings. It was the first quality start from the rotation since May 30, when Nathan Karns limited San Diego to two earned runs in 6 2/3 innings…Robinson Cano had a single in the sixth inning that extended his career-best streak of reaching base at least once to 34 games…Chris Iannetta had a single and walk in three plate appearances. He is 7-for-19 with three walks in his last five games after an 8-for-57 skid.
MINUS: Franklin Gutierrez had a walk in three plate appearances, but his hitting streak ended at 10 games…Dae-Ho Lee was hitless in four at-bats, which snapped a streak of five straight games with multiple hits.
STAT PACK: Nelson Cruz’s two-run shot in the fourth inning was his 12 homer in 124 at-bats against the Rangers in two-plus years since leaving the club as a free agent. Those are the most by any Texas opponent since the start of the 2014 season.
QUOTABLE: Texas third baseman Adrian Beltre on Elvis Andrus’ dash to the plate in the fifth inning: "Yeah, he faked me out. I think he faked everybody in the stadium."
SHORT HOPS: Nelson Cruz leads all players this season with seven homers against left-handed pitchers…the Mariners were 7-0-2 in road series before getting swept by the Rangers…the Mariners are 3-6 this season against the Rangers and trail them by three games in the AL West standings.
Bob Dutton: @TNT_Mariners