With the temperature dropping to 60 degrees in the eighth inning of a game that was over three hours old, there was the feeling of fall at T-Mobile Park. And with almost all of the announced crowd of 19,887 standing and screaming in anticipation of every pitch from Drew Steckenrider to Kyle Schwarber in the eighth inning, it gave a different and somewhat foreign feeling of fall as in ‘fall baseball’ where every little thing moment matters and the outcome could be monumental or detrimental to your season.
Trying to pitch his way out of a bases-loaded, one-out mess that partially his own creation in a tie game, Steckenrider needed a strikeout or induce a ground ball against a proven hitter, who has played in more meaningful September games than anyone on the field.
Steckenrider had just walked pinch-hitter Travis Shaw to load the bases and fell behind 2-0 and then 3-1 to Schwarber. But an elevated fastball for a swinging strike pushed the count to full and another fouled off fastball seemed to give Steckenrider the advantage. But with minimal command of his secondary pitches, Steckenrider fired his sixth fastball of the seven-pitch at-bat. It was supposed to be thrown to the inside half of the plate, but it instead leaked away.
Schwarber put a simple swing on it, sending a line drive into the gap in deep right-center, eliciting a groan from those standing fans. The ball rolled all the way to the wall and all three runners scored.
Those once screaming fans were headed for the exits, feeling the inevitable defeat. The eventual outcome – a disappointing 8-4 loss to the Red Sox played over four hours – was made just a little worse when Alex Verdugo smoked a two-run homer off Yohan Ramirez moments later.
Seattle fell to 78-67 and dropped to three games back of the Red Sox (82-65), Yankees (81-64) and Blue Jays (81-64). The Mariners will close out the series with Boston on Wednesday afternoon, desperate for a win with only 17 games remaining in the season.
The fateful eighth started with Joe Smith giving up a leadoff triple to Xander Bogaerts on a deep fly ball that looked like Mitch Haniger might catch before colliding with the wall. With Paul Sewald unavailable, manager Scott Servais went to Steckenrider instead.
It wasn’t a banner night for a Mariners bullpen that has been so solid this season.
Lefty Anthony Misiewicz lost a 2-1 lead in the sixth inning when Red Sox rookie Bobby Dalbec, who was born in Seattle and lived here until high school, smoked a solo homer to right field on a low curveball.
Seattle got a solid if not lengthy start from Tyler Anderson, who pitched 4 1/3 innings, allowing one run on four hits with two walks and five strikeouts.
The Red Sox got to Anderson in the fourth inning. After not getting a couple of strikes called on borderline pitches with a 1-2 count, Anderson eventually found himself with a full count against Red Sox slugger J.D. Martinez. On the ninth pitch of the at-bat, he fired a fastball that caught too much of the plate. Martinez scalded the mistake, sending a line drive into The ‘Pen for a 1-0 lead.
The Mariners answered in the bottom of the inning against Red Sox starter Nathan Eovaldi, who seemed to be cruising toward a dominant outing. After allowing a leadoff single to J.P. Crawford to start his outing, the hard-throwing right-hander retired the next nine batters in order, striking out six of them with his combination of 98-99-mph fastballs and nasty sliders.
Thanks to a little luck, some well-placed balls in play and the Red Sox abysmal defense, the Mariners were able to scratch across two runs against Eovaldi. Haniger led off with a single up the middle and Kyle Seager produced on swinging bunt on a slider off the cap of his bat that went for a single. Ty France followed with a bloop single off the end of his bat that looped into center and allowed Haniger to race home and tie the score.
Eovaldi appeared to have his first out of the inning when Abraham Toro lifted a high fly ball to right field. Concerned with Seager tagging up and advancing, right fielder Hunter Renfroe took his eye off the ball momentarily as he went to catch it. He dropped the routine out and the Mariners had the bases loaded.
Seattle was only able to get one more run. Jarred Kelenic struck out in an at-bat where he saw nothing but sliders, Jake Fraley hit a deep fly ball to center that was caught at the wall and allowed Seager to tag up and score. Eovaldi then struck out Jake Bauers on his 38th pitch of the inning for the third out.
Should have they gotten more than one run out of bases loaded and no outs? Absolutely.
The Mariners have been guilty of squandering scoring opportunities on this homestand with poor situational hitting and inability to convert with runners in scoring position.
And with only a one-run lead, Servais wasn’t afraid to go to his bullpen early when Anderson found trouble in the top of the fifth. After allowing a leadoff single to Verdugo and a bloop single to start the inning, Anderson got when Enrique Hernandez hit a line drive to right field. With Renfroe and Bogaerts coming to the plate – both right-handed hitters – Servais went to his bullpen. He brought in right-hander Casey Sadler to end the threat. Sadler struck out Renfroe and Seager made a nice stop on a hard one-hopper off Bogaerts bat, firing the ball to second for the inning-ending force out.