ANAHEIM -- Some people say pitchers aren’t athletes. Will Vest showed otherwise on Friday night.
After a pitch in the dirt momentarily got away from catcher Tom Murphy and bounced up the first-base line, Murphy was able to scoop up the wild pitch and flip in time to set up Vest for a diving save to get Juan Lagares out at the plate to end the seventh inning in the Mariners' 3-2 loss to the Angels at Angel Stadium.
Mariners manager Scott Servais said Vest’s hustle to plate was the difference-maker on the diving play.
“Murphy did a nice job as he always does blocking the ball,” Servais said. “It kind of squared away from him a little bit. … The key to the play, the pitcher is hustling in there. He gave him a great feed. [It's] one of those plays. It's do or die. You either make it or you don't and our guys did a heck of a job recovering to get a big out on that play.”
Vest’s teammate Héctor Santiago said the play was one that helps back up the notion that pitchers are athletes, too.
“What a great play right there,” said Santiago, who threw three innings of relief, allowing one run and striking out five. “As pitchers, we try to be as athletic as we can, even though everybody calls us non-athletes on the field. For most of our careers we play a position, and he did a really good job right there. Murph did a great job of blocking that ball, keeping it in front and being able to give him a good throw at home plate to make that play.”
Vest, a former shortstop and left fielder during his college days with Stephen F. Austin University was able to keep the Mariners within a run after his diving save, but the momentum did not continue on offense even after Seattle loaded the bases with no outs to start the eighth inning. With the top of the lineup up, Mitch Haniger, Kyle Seager and Ty France went down in order quietly against Angels closer Raisel Iglesias.
Despite it being a bullpen day for the Mariners, Servais said his pitching staff did a solid job of keeping the club in the game, as five relievers combined to piece together eight innings.
“It just took a couple guys to get there,” Servais said. “[I] felt really good about our chances of winning that game late. We just couldn't quite push anything across the plate there. I give Iglesias a ton of credit. It doesn't get any tougher spot to come in and be executing pitches.”
J.P. Crawford accounted for much of the Mariners’ offense, as he went 1-for-2, with two RBIs, a home run and a walk in the loss. On just the second pitch of the game, Crawford homered off of Shohei Ohtani. The 430-foot shot was Crawford’s first leadoff homer.
Like many teams that have faced Ohtani, Mariners hitters struggled to find success against his splitter. The only Mariner hitter to put the two-way star’s splitter in play was Crawford, who hit a sacrifice fly to left field that brought home Taylor Trammell in the third inning.
“He’s got one of the special pitches in the game,” Servais said. “You go across the league and you know it's [Gerrit] Cole's fastball. It's [Shane] Bieber's breaking ball. The Ohtani split-finger. It's about as good as it gets.”