John McGrath

John McGrath: When playing Houston, Mariners have no room for error — even from the replay guy

Seattle’s Mitch Haniger (17) slides toward a tag by Houston catcher Evan Gattis on Sunday in the second inning in Seattle. Haniger was called out.
Seattle’s Mitch Haniger (17) slides toward a tag by Houston catcher Evan Gattis on Sunday in the second inning in Seattle. Haniger was called out. The Associated Press

The Mariners lost Sunday to Houston, 8-2, in a game precisely as boring as the score indicates. It lasted three hours and 21 minutes, of which, oh, about two minutes contained suspense.

Robinson Cano had hit a two-out, two-run double that almost scored another run, but home-plate umpire Lance Berksdale ruled the relay throw from shortstop beat Mitch Haniger’s slide.

Threat done, inning over, the Mariners apparently would be forced to settle for a 2-0 lead.

But from the Seattle dugout, manager Scott Servais requested a booth review. With each replaying of Haniger’s slide on the center field video board, the Safeco Field crowd got louder and louder.

And when crew chief Angel Hernandez signaled “safe” as the umpires dispersed, a surge of electricity could be felt in the hot air.

The surge was brief. As the Astros players returned to their positions — and Cano went back to second as a baserunner — Hernandez reversed the call, confusing everybody.

Out or safe? Turns out Major League Baseball replay officials in New York upheld the original call, but the wires in Hernandez’ brain got crossed for a moment.

“He basically said, ‘I screwed up. I gave the wrong sign,’ ” explained Servais, whose confrontation with Hernandez didn’t last long because, well, there aren’t a lot of retorts to “I screwed up.”

“You don’t often see that,” Servais went on during his post-game interview with the media. “Sometimes the eyes go bad, but the ears usually don’t go bad.”

(I almost asked Servais to speak up, but I know when to pick my spots. A few minutes after his team lost its first home series since June 11 was not a time to test the manager’s sense of humor.)

Anyway, Servais was more frustrated with the replay review official 3,000 miles away than he was with the umpires in Seattle.

“I’m shocked it was not overturned,” said Servais. “It was pretty clear to me. We’ve had a few of those lately that have been shocking. I’m not sure what the people in New York are looking at. They have the same view we have.”

Said Haniger, a low-key rookie whose next outburst on a baseball field will be his first: “I thought I got in, but I knew it was bang-bang, really close.”

The call was pivotal, as it prevented the Mariners from sustaining a rally that could have provided starter Ariel Miranda with a more comfortable cushion than two runs.

Facing Francis Martes, a prized prospect put into the Astros rotation as a replacement for scheduled starter Brad Peacock, who was on paternity leave, hitters showed enough patience to walk three times during a scoreless first inning.

Then came the rally, undone by the disputed call. Had Cano been able to remain in scoring position with Nelson Cruz at the plate, it’s possible the Mariners would have further roughed up Martes, a power-throwing righty still learning how to consistently deliver pitches within a few feet of the strike zone.

“Early in the game, I thought we had their starter on the ropes, but we didn’t cash in,” said Servais. “Robbie gets the big double and then there’s the play at the plate.

“Obviously, we didn’t get the third run there, and then they went to their bullpen. It was kind of a momentum play in the game. If we keep that inning going, we have them on the ropes. But after that, we didn’t get much going offensively at all.”

What Servais described as a “disappointing day” should not obscure the larger picture: The Mariners bats awakened in June, and the starting pitching staff is shaping up as a version of what general manager Jerry Dipoto envisioned it.

Hey, you can’t win ‘em all, either games or close calls at home plate. And even when you think you do, sometimes you don’t.

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