'Got to let it go': Mariners stunned after eight-run lead evaporates

June 8th, 2024

KANSAS CITY -- Roughly 90 minutes before the Mariners took the field Friday for their series opener against the Royals, manager Scott Servais casually mentioned that he figured his club would need more than the usual victory script.

Seattle, which is known for winning low-scoring games on the strength of its pitching staff, required some offensive fireworks if the club was going to have success in Kansas City, according to Servais.

The Mariners got all the offense that their manager wanted, but it still wasn’t enough. The Royals erased an early eight-run Seattle lead and wound up scoring three in the ninth against fill-in closer Ryne Stanek, sending the Mariners to a 10-9 loss at Kauffman Stadium.

“It’s a crazy game,” Servais said.

“Crazy” seemed to be the appropriate word for the Mariners after what looked like a blowout win turned into a blown opportunity. Seattle scored seven in the first inning, which put starter Bryce Miller in a commanding position before he ever threw a pitch.

Miller started Friday’s game with three scoreless innings, but the Royals scored four in the fourth and put the first three batters on in the sixth to force Miller out of the game. All three runners came around to score, which gave Miller a season-high seven earned runs.

“Offense showed up and dropped seven in the first,” Miller said. “That should have never been a game. At the end of the day, I’ve got to just not load the bases with no outs in the sixth. I need to be in the zone and attack and I didn’t do that. There’s really nobody to blame other than me.”

Without closer Andrés Muñoz, who has been out with a lower back strain, the Mariners turned to Stanek for the save. He had completed four of five save chances this season, but started the ninth with a walk to Nick Loftin.

“The leadoff walk probably hurt us as much as anything in the ninth,” Servais said.

Garrett Hampson followed with a slow chopper to third, which Josh Rojas sprinted towards and threw off target. The error led to runners on second and third with nobody out before Maikel Garcia hit an RBI groundout, leaving the Mariners up 9-8 with the tying run at second.

At that point, with a base open, Servais wasn’t going to intentionally walk Bobby Witt Jr. with Vinnie Pasquantino and Salvador Perez hitting behind Witt.

Witt proceeded to tie the game with an RBI triple into the left-field corner. After the Mariners created a force at any base by intentionally walking Pasquantino and Perez, the Royals walked it off when Nelson Velázquez hit a hard grounder to shortstop J.P. Crawford, who couldn’t secure it cleanly enough to start a double play. The Mariners could only get the forceout at second before the Royals came on the field to celebrate.

The blown eight-run lead didn’t prevent Servais from pointing out the positives, though. Rookie second baseman Ryan Bliss put an exclamation point on Seattle’s seven-run first inning with his first career homer.

“We did a lot of really good things tonight,” Servais said. “You know that game is far from over, certainly against the Royals.”

Bliss said he will long savor his first career homer. The Mariners’ No. 11 prospect picked up his first career hit on June 1 against the Angels.

“Your first hit is special and your first home run is even more special,” Bliss said. “Definitely a moment I’ll never forget.”

The overriding message from Servais is that the Mariners can’t dwell on a game they appeared to have well in hand, but ultimately let slip away.

“Got to let it go,” Servais said. “We’ve got a good team and we’re in a good spot. I like our chances if we score nine runs again [Saturday].”