SEATTLE -- Errors and poor defense can be overcome, the Mariners have learned, but only if you manage to hit the ball over the wall and score enough runs to make the miscues moot.
But even that formula didn’t work on Wednesday afternoon at T-Mobile Park as a struggling Seattle club was outslugged by the Rangers, 8-7. Once again, the Mariners couldn’t stop the slide that has seen them drop from first to worst in the American League West in short order.
Toss in a suddenly resurgent Mallex Smith, who went 2-for-4 with a triple, a walk and two RBIs, along with a pair of doubles, two walks and two runs from rookie Shed Long and the Mariners seemingly had enough on this day to overcome three errors and a pair of unearned runs, as well as a couple of plays that weren’t made that would have changed the game.
But Texas scored twice in the eighth off reliever Roenis Elias to tie the game at 7, then won it with a pair of doubles off Anthony Bass in the top of the ninth -- the first a fly ball to left by Nomar Mazara that Domingo Santana couldn’t get to, followed by a go-ahead slice down the left-field line by Asdrubel Cabrera.
“I thought we were in pretty good shape with a couple run lead with six outs to go, but we just couldn’t lock it down,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said. “We didn’t execute some pitches late and again, as we’ve talked [about] a lot this year, the defense reared its ugly head at times, which has cost us.”
Seattle has committed 63 errors and allowed 54 unearned runs -- both Major League highs -- in 58 games. The Mariners totaled 87 errors in 162 games in 2018. Going into Wednesday’s games, the White Sox had the second-most errors at 44, and the Giants were No. 2 in unearned runs with 32.
All three Mariners errors were committed by relief pitchers, with lefty Jesse Biddle mishandling a comebacker by Nomar Mazara and then throwing it away for two miscues on one play in the sixth that set up both unearned runs.
Beckham has struggled defensively this year, but he made an outstanding stop and spun on his knee to throw out Elvis Andrus leading off the ninth. But Santana couldn’t track down Mazara’s two-out drive on a ball that hung up long enough that it had a 95-percent catch probability, according to Statcast.
“It was up in the air awhile,” Servais said. “The ball is slicing away from him, but we’re trying to stay away from the double there and keep them out of scoring position and obviously he didn’t get to it, didn’t get a great route toward it. It’s a play, I think he’d agree, he probably should have got.”
The Mariners are now 24-34, having lost 11 of their past 13 games and going 11-32 since starting the year at 13-2.
It’s the first time Seattle has been 10 games under .500 since the end of the 2015 season, while Texas topped .500 again at 27-26.
“Everyone here are competitors,” Beckham said. “We wouldn’t be here if we weren’t. We’ll keep coming out and keep competing. It’s a tough stretch, but nobody is going to hold our hands through this. It’s baseball and it’s life. So let’s suck it up and play better.”
LeBlanc bounces back
Mariners starter Wade LeBlanc gave up three runs in the first inning, continuing a troubling trend in his third start back from a strained right oblique. But this time the 34-year-old settled in and got through five innings with no further damage, turning a 4-3 lead over to his bullpen.
“It’s just aggressive teams not letting you settle in and that’s what teams are starting to do more and more now,” LeBlanc said. “A lot of times, if you’re going to get starters you’re going to get them early before they settle in. I just have to do a better job of getting into a rhythm quicker.”
LeBlanc said he feels like he’s getting built back up to where he needs to be following his five-week stint on the injured list, with his next start coming Monday against AL West-leading Houston.
The poor defense certainly hasn’t helped the pitchers’ case as Seattle’s starters are 5-18 with a 6.45 ERA over the last 29 games.