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So close: Haniger's near-catch a game-changer

MLB.com

SEATTLE -- Ardent believers in the saying "baseball is a game of inches" added some weight to their argument during the Mariners' 5-2 loss to the Astros on Saturday night. 

With two outs and the bases loaded in the seventh inning, Mariners right fielder Mitch Haniger lunged out to make a diving play on Brian McCann's slicing line drive. And for a moment, it appeared Haniger finished the catch. But the ball squirted out of Haniger's glove as he bounced off the outfield grass and it rolled under the fence along the right-field foul pole, allowing McCann to notch a bases-clearing double, pushing the Astros lead to four. 

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SEATTLE -- Ardent believers in the saying "baseball is a game of inches" added some weight to their argument during the Mariners' 5-2 loss to the Astros on Saturday night. 

With two outs and the bases loaded in the seventh inning, Mariners right fielder Mitch Haniger lunged out to make a diving play on Brian McCann's slicing line drive. And for a moment, it appeared Haniger finished the catch. But the ball squirted out of Haniger's glove as he bounced off the outfield grass and it rolled under the fence along the right-field foul pole, allowing McCann to notch a bases-clearing double, pushing the Astros lead to four. 

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The play would prove huge as the Mariners lost by three runs.

"It just came out last minute," Haniger said. "Unfortunate." 

It's unfair to blame Haniger for his oh-so-close moment due to the difficulty of the catch,. MLB's Statcast™ rated the catch as having just a 35 percent catch probability and would have been rated a four-star catch. Completing the out required Haniger to track 69 feet in 4.1 seconds. 

The analytics indicate Haniger did all he could to catch the ball. Haniger isn't second guessing himself, either. 

"It's easy to say now that I should have been playing more toward the line," Haniger said, "but I'm trying to cover as much ground as I can right-center and down the line." 

McCann was even surprised to see Haniger make as good of an effort as he did. 

"I thought it was a double off the bat, and he kept gaining on it," McCann said. "He caught it and obviously hitting the ground it came out, which was nice."

Carlos Ruiz also saw inches come into play, as he nearly pulled a ball down the left-field line for a base hit with two outs and the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth, but third-base umpire Todd Tichenor ruled it foul. With the Mariners trailing by three and speedy outfielder Guillermo Heredia pinch-running for Mike Zunino at first, a double in the left-field corner may have been enough to clear the bases

"[McCann] just got enough of it and baseball is a game of inches, man," said Mariners reliever Steve Cishek, who gave up the hit to McCann. "Haniger almost made an outstanding play and it just didn't go our way."

Josh Horton is a reporter for MLB.com based in Seattle. He covered the Mariners on Saturday.

Seattle Mariners, Mitch Haniger