December 5, 2022

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Mariners undone by uncharacteristic miscues

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SEATTLE — It was an uncharacteristic night all around for the Mariners, saddled by costly errors from their Gold Glove shortstop that led to an abbreviated start from their staff leader. That, along with 12 stranded baserunners and go-ahead runs allowed from their lights-out bullpen were just too much for Seattle to overcome on Thursday, spoiling the five-run lead it built in the first inning.

The Mariners dropped their three-game series finale against Texas, 8-6, a game that was in reach at so many moments until it wasn’t.

“We should’ve won today,” shortstop J.P. Crawford said. “It’s on me.”

Crawford committed two errors in the fifth inning that turned what would’ve been a 1-2-3 frame into a four-run Rangers barrage.

The first was on a throw that landed way in front of first baseman Ty France that allowed the leadoff man to reach. Crawford had fielded the grounder backhanded and the hitter was speedster Eli White, who was the third-fastest man in baseball last year and was surging to first with a 30.5 feet-per-second sprint speed (well above the 27.0 league average). The second was on a bobbled ball that took an awkward hop in front of him and allowed Mitch Garver to reach handily with two outs.

Marco Gonzales, who had already struggled with efficiency and was at 83 pitches, then surrendered an RBI double to Adolis García, a two-run homer to Nick Solak and another double to Nathaniel Lowe, in order, before being pulled. Four of the six runs he was charged with were unearned, and he now has eight this season — the most in the Majors.

“I messed them up,” the uber competitive Crawford said. “No one likes making errors. I should’ve made the plays.”

Crawford had only once committed two errors in a single game, on June 15, 2019, and he’d never committed two in one inning. And Gonzales, who typically induces weak contact and relies more heavily on defense than any other Seattle starter, also shouldered blame. One is the unquestioned leader of the position players and the other of the pitching staff.

“I look at that as an opportunity to pick our guys up,” Gonzales said. “Certainly, these guys have picked me up all year long. It’s a long season to be played and there’s going to be a lot of that back and forth. But no, I think in those times, I take pride in being able to move forward and get us back in the dugout, and unfortunately, I wasn’t able to do that.”

That said, the Mariners still had multiple comeback attempts brewing.

None was more notable than Julio Rodríguez stepping to the plate trailing by one with two on and two outs in the seventh inning and then being rung up on his 13th called strikeout of the year on a pitch that was off the plate and left the 12,570 on hand roaring in frustration. Statcast classified it outside the strike zone, one of many such calls this year against the rookie.

Then in the eighth after the lineup flipped, Eugenio Suárez drove in Adam Frazier to tie the game at 6-6 after Frazier and France walked. Crawford followed with another free pass to load the bases, but Tom Murphy struck out looking to halt the rally.

Texas took its final lead in the ninth after Drew Steckenrider issued a two-out walk to García, who then scored on a down-the-line double by Kole Calhoun.

The comeback spoiled the five-spot that Seattle threw up in the first, when Crawford hit his first homer of 2022, a three-run blast emblazoned with an epic bat flip. France also hit a two-run shot and finished a triple shy of the cycle.

But a few uncharacteristic mishaps later on became too much to overcome.

“We shouldn’t have been in that spot in the first place,” Crawford said. “That’s all that’s all on me. If I make those two plays, we’re out of there, it’s still 5-0. And then that’s the knockout punch right there, so that’s on me.”

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