ARLINGTON, Texas – A fly ball that seemed to be a game-tying three-run homer instead turned into a run-scoring single by a matter of inches. Their best reliever gave up a line drive two-run homer that was hit so hard and so low with topspin that it didn’t seem like it could possibly clear the wall in right field. Throw in a pair of very close but ultimately unsuccessful defensive plays that led to runs earlier in the game, and, well, you have the recipe for yet another Mariners’ defeat.
Unlike many of their recent failures, the Mariners weren’t bludgeoned or belittled by their opponent. No, the 5-3 defeat Tuesday against Texas was a competitive and relatively crisp game.
But the final result still was something that’s happened far too often. Seattle lost for the fifth time in six games. The Mariners are 5-17 since defeating Texas 5-4 in 11 innings on April 25.
“We actually played a pretty good game tonight,” manager Scott Servais said. “We were just inches away all night.”
A hope for a late rally was crushed by the vicious swing of Joey Gallo, who pounded a two-run homer that just cleared the wall in the right field off left-hander Roenis Elias in the bottom of the eighth, turning the Rangers’ 3-2 lead into a 5-2 lead. The exit velocity off the bat was 110 mph and had 21 degree launch angle. But instead of getting his usual backspin to carry it, the ball had topspin and was sinking toward the wall when it just cleared.
“Well, we are talking about Gallo,” said catcher Omar Narvaez. “He’s strong enough. For sure, I thought it wasn’t going out. But again, it’s Gallo and we all know he has a lot of power. And anything close to the plate, he can hit out.”
Those insurance runs for Texas loomed large and costly for Seattle when Narvaez crushed a solo homer to right-center off Shawn Kelley with two outs in the ninth. But instead of tying the game, the Mariners only made the outcome seem closer. Kelley notched the final out for his third save.
“The tack-on runs that they got were big,” Servais said. “It was a big separator. We were hoping to keep it right at one run.”
Elias has been outstanding of late, but gave up a leadoff single Nomar Mazara, who had three hits on the night, and Gallo, both left-handed hitters.
“Elias has thrown the ball great and he’s probably been our most consistent guy all year long,” Servais said. “It was a good spot to use him to keep the game right there, but we just weren’t able to do it.”
Veteran left-hander Tommy Milone gave the Mariners a serviceable if not efficient start, pitching five innings and allowing two runs on three hits with a walk and six strikeouts. If not for a 31-pitch first inning followed by a 24-pitch second inning, Milone might have pushed into the sixth. But at 89 pitches on a warm evening and the Rangers’ lineup cycling through for a third time, the Mariners pulled Milone after the fifth.
“I didn’t want to give in,” Milone said of the first inning. “Obviously a lot better hitters up here that will spoil good pitches. I settled down after that and started hitting the corners and changing speeds.”
The Rangers picked up their first run off Milone in the second inning. Gallo led off the inning with a double off the right-field wall, but he should have been out at second base. Jay Bruce played the ball perfectly and fired it to second base well ahead of the sliding Gallo. However, shortstop J.P. Crawford couldn’t hang onto the ball as Gallo slid into second. It loomed costly as Gallo later scored from third on Ronald Guzman’s two-out double into the right-field corner.
Texas pushed the lead to 2-0 in the fourth. Nomar Mazara lashed a double into right and later scored on Asdrubal Cabrera’s sacrifice fly to center. Initially, Mazara was ruled out at home on a brilliant throw from center fielder Mitch Haniger and nice catch-and-tag at home by Narvaez, who appeared to block Mazara from touching home. But a quick replay review revealed Mazara had snuck his hand under Narvaez’s shin guard to touch home.
The lead grew to 3-0 in the sixth inning when Milone’s replacement, Austin Adams, gave up a laser of a run-scoring double to Mazara that was hit so hard it allowed Hunter Pence to score from first base.
Down 3-0, the Mariners thought they had tied the game in the seventh against Rangers starter Lance Lynn. With Daniel Vogelbach on second base and Edwin Encarnacion on first – two players who are not exactly fleet of foot – Narvaez lifted a high fly ball to right field. The ball seemed like it would carry over the wall. Instead, it bounced off the edge and back into play.
“When it came off the bat, I thought for sure it was going to be a three-run homer to tie the game,” Servais said. “But it was just a couple of inches short.”
Vogelbach was able to score from second, but Encarnacion only went to third and Narvaez settled for a single.
“I didn’t hit that good like I did the last one,” Narvaez said. “I thought got enough for it to go just because of this place and the ball flies a little bit. It is what it is. I didn’t get it. There’s nothing the runners could do either. It didn’t happen. It didn’t go in our favor.”
Bruce cut the lead to 3-2 with a sacrifice fly, but Lynn came back to strike out Tim Beckham and Crawford to end the inning and the rally.