Rangers send Mariners to another disappointing loss
Rangers catcher Mike Napoli hits three-run homer, prevents Brendan Ryan from scoring on inside-the-park homer attempt in 4-2 victory over Mariners
Seattle Times staff reporter
M's @ Texas, 5:05 p.m., ROOT Sports
ARLINGTON, Texas — Gambling season officially came upon the Mariners in the eighth inning of their latest defeat.
With the offense down to popping a half-dozen singles or fewer per game going on a week, the sight of a ball rolling to the outfield fence Monday night proved too tempting for the Mariners to resist. And so, rather than take this 4-2 defeat to the Texas Rangers lying down, third-base coach Jeff Datz went for it and waved Brendan Ryan all the way around for a shot at an inside-the-park home run with nobody out.
The Rangers needed a perfect play to nab Ryan and that's what they got. Just as quickly as the slot machine dangled an unexpected jackpot to overcome a night of setbacks, it ate the final chips the Mariners had left in a fifth straight defeat.
"I'll never forget that as long as I live," Ryan said. "I don't even know if I touched the plate, but it was close. I never had the opportunity before. Loss aside and all that, it would have been pretty sweet. Kind of like a baseball bucket list thing and all that."
The Mariners were down 4-1 and being manhandled by Texas starter Matt Harrison en route to a loss at Rangers Ballpark when Michael Saunders reached on a leadoff infield single. Ryan followed with what should have been a line-drive single to center before outfielder Craig Gentry made an ill-advised dive for a barely catchable ball with a three-run lead.
"As soon as he dives and misses it — boom, it's on," Ryan said.
Datz agreed. The way the Mariners were looking in this game, having sleepwalked through most of it before a Mike Napoli three-run homer in the sixth off Steve Delabar gave Texas the lead, any chance to get back in it was a gift.
That and the fact it looked initially like Ryan would easily beat the play.
"I thought, really that he was going to make it and that's why I sent him," Datz said.
But right fielder Nelson Cruz made a strong throw back in and second baseman Ian Kinsler made the perfect relay home. Even then, it took catcher Napoli blocking the plate to keep Ryan from scoring after he arrived ahead of the ball.
Ryan had stumbled just slightly while rounding second, then admittedly ran out of gas halfway to home.
"I'm kicking myself in the tail for sending him now," Datz said. "I should have held him and had a runner at third. Ground ball and we're 4-3. So, a big play in the game and it obviously turned out to be a bad call by the third-base coach."
Mariners manager Eric Wedge agreed that Datz had to be sure Ryan made it if he was sending him.
But any apologizing by Datz, Wedge and company seemed somewhat misplaced, given what they have to work with as this 21-30 season plummets rapidly.
The only offense the Mariners got came from Chone Figgins, who got his first hit in exactly a month with a first-inning double to snap an 0-for-24 slump. Poorly miscast No. 3 hitter Ichiro then tapped a chopper back to the mound and Figgins was caught in a rundown between second and third and tagged out.
Ichiro moved up to second on the play and scored on a Jesus Montero single. Montero nearly homered off Harrison on a deep fly out in the sixth and that was about it for Seattle until Gentry got adventurous on Ryan's liner.
Mariners starter Kevin Millwood labored with his command, yielded a tying homer to Nelson Cruz in the second inning then fought to preserve the 1-1 tie through five. Millwood was pulled at 97 pitches, then Delabar came on and yielded a leadoff walk, a single and the decisive homer to Napoli off the second deck in right on a 2-0 pitch.
Wedge looked worried after the game. His Mariners face a tough schedule here, at the White Sox and at the Angels with a bullpen starting to sag and an offense looking woefully overmatched at times.
"These guys are going to have to dig deep and put into play what we want them to do offensively," Wedge said. "We talk to them about it, we've explained it to them. I think they have a good understanding of what they need to do, but making sure that it translates into games, that's what we're not seeing.
"And that's the frustrating part for me as the manager of this ballclub. Because to win up here in the big leagues, you can't (expect to) have to play perfect to win ballgames."
The Mariners weren't perfect, either on the Ryan attempt at an unlikely home run, or in the seven innings prior.
Ryan said it was worth the shot.
"Maybe we have a small parade in the dugout and now there's just electricity and we take off from there," he said. "All the momentum goes our way. I mean, who knows. It's a young team. Maybe it's something we could have fed off. But it didn't happen."