Elias, Beckham misplay sinks Mariners in 9th

July 21st, 2019

SEATTLE -- The Mariners’ first winning streak since June 26 was potentially theirs for the taking on Saturday, but a few baserunning and defensive miscues in the final innings allowed the Angels to creep their way back in what manifested into one of Seattle’s more frustrating losses in its step-back season.

With a 2-2 tie and two outs in the ninth, served up an RBI single to David Fletcher and a three-run homer to Mike Trout that lifted the Halos to a 6-2 win and handed Seattle its seventh loss over its past eight games.

The ninth-inning floodgates only opened after Elias and first baseman lost track of the ball on a sky-high infield popup that let Luis Rengifo reach first with two outs, and allowed Kole Calhoun, who walked, to go from first to third.

Elias was initially charged with an error, which would’ve been the Mariners’ 97th this season (22 more than the White Sox, who have the second-most), but a late scoring change gave Rengifo a single.

"I saw it right away, but I felt like [Beckham] was going to catch it, and when I felt that Beckham couldn't see the ball, I tried to go catch it and couldn't,” Elias said through interpreter and Mariners bench coach Manny Acta.

Beckham, a standard shortstop, was playing first base for just the fifth time this season and had moved from left field one inning prior, where he made the first start of his career.

“We both just lost it,” Beckham said. “It went up, I saw it and I was tracking it when it came down. I just completely lost it. The position doesn't have anything to do with it. We're professionals. You're held accountable. The play should be made.”

“We certainly had some issues earlier in the year,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said of the club’s struggles at times to complete routine defensive plays. “I think we've overcome a lot of those things defensively, but again, it rears its ugly head at the wrong time. Certainly, ninth inning and Ro is trying to work through the lineup there and after that, the floodgates opened.”

The Mariners also squandered an opportunity to pull ahead in the seventh by making two costly outs on the basepaths. Dylan Moore was caught in a rundown by Angels shortstop Andrelton Simmons while running from second to third prematurely on an infield grounder, then Mallex Smith was picked off at first by reliever Justin Anderson.

The defeat came on a night when the Mariners got better-than-usual results using an opener. Making his fourth appearance for the Mariners and first as an opener, right-hander Matt Wisler overcame a leadoff single to Fletcher to toss a scoreless first. Then Wade LeBlanc delivered four scoreless frames over his five-inning outing, though LeBlanc was self-critical of allowing his first three baserunners to reach in the fourth, which led to a pair of runs that tied the game.

“I tend to put these games on my back because they gave me a lead,” LeBlanc said. “The offense did their job. They gave me a lead and I didn't hold it.”

LeBlanc finished the outing with just four hits allowed and four strikeouts. The left-hander now has a 3.04 ERA over eight outings when pitching behind an opener compared to a 7.79 mark in seven starts.

LeBlanc and lefty Tommy Milone have been the only pitchers that Seattle has used for the bulk-innings role to follow openers this season, and -- outside a few standout games -- the Mariners have seen marginal success employing the strategy. Though that’s largely stemmed from poor performances from the actual openers, which is why Wisler’s outing was encouraging.

In the 14 games that the Mariners have used an opener, LeBlanc and Milone have a 3.52 ERA, while the openers are 0-3 with a 13.50 ERA, including Wisler’s scoreless frame on Saturday.