June 14, 2024

Mariners miss chances to back Miller in loss to Rangers

ARLINGTON — Scoring first and chasing an opposing starter early haven’t been guarantees for Mariners victories in this young season, but that formula has typically put them in the win column, especially as they look to take their third straight series.

But a lack of timely hitting on Wednesday night, a lot of hard-hit balls against Bryce Miller and late-innings defensive hiccups from Mitch Haniger and Austin Voth put Seattle in a hole too deep to dig out from in a 5-1 loss to the Rangers at Globe Life Field.

The Mariners still have the opportunity to win the series in a venue that they went 0-6 at last season, but it would come on the heels of missed opportunities. Seattle went 1-for-11 with runners in scoring position, stranded nine baserunners and lost for just the third time in 13 games in which it scored first.

“You have to give the Rangers credit,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said. “They were very disciplined.”

With a one-run lead in the fourth, Miller surrendered back-to-back solo home runs to Adolis García and Evan Carter, on his two-seamer and splitter, respectively, the first homers hit on each pitch this season. But damage seemingly loomed to that point, given that by the end of the night, nine of the 10 balls put into play against him were hard hit (95 mph or greater).

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Miller also grinded his way to 28 pitches in the first inning despite three strikeouts, with walks to Corey Seager and Nathaniel Lowe. A free pass also ended his night to begin the fifth inning, to Marcus Semien, which was his season-high fourth. Miller finished with five punchouts and just the two runs, a step in the right direction despite a losing effort, given that Texas tagged him for 13 runs in two starts last season.

“It felt like every inning was like 20 minutes long,” Miller said. “I just threw too many pitches and got into a lot of deep counts.”

Miller might’ve allowed just one run had Julio Rodríguez done the remarkable and robbed García, as most in the building assumed when he timed up the ball and his jump at the straightaway center-field wall. The play looked like a carbon copy of Rodríguez’s robbery of Fernando Tatis Jr. last August in Seattle, when he paced from the warning track after the attempt, then after a lengthy delay, smiled and revealed the ball in his glove.

He made similar gestures on Wednesday, prompting García to wait at first base and the umpires to hold off on the call. But Rodríguez finally revealed that he didn’t catch it, as the ball had caromed off the tip of his glove before clearing the fence.

“I told him, ‘Don’t jump at the wall,’” García joked. “Yeah, I thought he caught it. I was just standing at first base. I think [he was doing it on purpose]. I saw he did that last year with Tatis. I didn’t want to keep running the bases and get out. The pitcher thought he got it.”Yet, signaling Rodríguez’s near-miss as a play that contributed to Seattle’s loss would be imprudent.

The plays that proved costly began with Haniger bobbling an exchange in the right-field corner that allowed Jonah Heim to turn a single into three bases and one run into two in the sixth. An inning later, reliever Voth was called for obstruction in the first-base line that eliminated a double play and later led to a run.

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But the Mariners’ costliest culprit was their lack of offensive production.

Their lone run came in the first, and even then, there were chances to cash in more. Josh Rojas opened with a triple — taking the leadoff spot from J.P. Crawford after the shortstop was scratched with right oblique soreness — and was one of four baserunners that frame. But Texas starter Jon Gray finally escaped after 31 pitches.

Gray lasted just 4 2/3 innings — marking the sixth time in eight games the Mariners chased a starter before clearing the fifth — but he effectively spun them with sliders to seven strikeouts. Overall, 79 of the 155 pitches (51%) the Mariners saw from Texas pitchers were sliders, a by-design effort given their challenges with spin. They went 2-for-11 with one walk and five strikeouts against them.

“He did not miss with the slider,” Servais said of Gray. “They were all on the edge or just off, so you have to give him credit there.”

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