A slider off the seam of Jake Bauers’ pant leg put the potential winning run on base and the possible game-winning double — a line drive down the right field line with Bauers running — landed foul by just inches, transforming the screams of the hopeful Mariners fans in the crowd of 17,860 into crestfallen groans.
Instead of a walk-off victory in the ninth inning and a story of success for Jarred Kelenic, who has gone from the hitting messiah to a prospect pariah on social media in an up-and-down debut season, the young rookie struck out on an unexpected changeup from Adam Ottavino — only the second one he’s thrown in more than 1,000 pitches this season — to end the ninth inning.
And those inches that separated the Mariners from a victory celebration and having to play extra innings were as close as they came to beating the Red Sox in what would instead be a crushing 9-4 loss that might also have torpedoed their postseason hopes.
A 10th-inning implosion that started with a bloop single to left, a passed ball allowing the go-ahead run to score, a walk and another bloop single without an out being recorded snowballed into a six-run burst by Boston, turning a 3-3 game into a disappointing rout that had fans trudging toward the exits before the third out was made.
The Mariners fell to 78-68 and sit four games back of the Red Sox (83-65) and Blue Jays (82-64) for the second wild-card spot with 16 games remaining in the season. The Yankees also sit a half-game ahead of them.
“In a game like that, you need a few breaks,” manager Scott Servais. “You need a bounce on a ball to go fair when it’s just barely foul, things like that. And obviously, we did not get that to happen for us at the end. Our guys really left it all out on the field. If Kelenic’s ball is a foot to the other way, it’s a walk-off win and you can feel better about things, but it didn’t happen today.”
Kelenic, who had two hits earlier in the game, turned on a 96-mph fastball from Ottavino on an 0-1 count and sprinted toward first base thinking the game was won.
“I was hoping,” Kelenic said quietly. “I got a good pitch and put a good swing on it, hit it real hard, but it is what it is.”
Down 0-2, Kelenic didn’t chase three pitches out of the zone and then fouled off a fastball. Ottavino then stunned Kelenic with only the second changeup he’s thrown all season for a swinging strike three.
“He’s thrown his changeup like 3 percent of the time,” Kelenic said referring to stats over the past few seasons. “I was part of that 3 percent. It’s frustrating. It’s just another learning opportunity — awful as it sounds and as cliché as it sounds. really wish that I could have came up there.”
Servais believes it will prepare Kelenic for the next time he’s in that situation.
“The changeup he threw him to end the at-bat was a heck of a pitch,” Servais said. “It’s over the plate. It’s down, and it’s tough to lay off of. (Ottavino) has got a lot of experience, and he’s been through the wars a little bit. So he’s got the ability to make pitches or he wouldn’t be out in that spot. Certainly, it’s not his go-to pitch. But it was the right pitch at that time. He kind of had Jarred back and forth with the breaking balls and the fastball, and he went to the middle pitch so to speak and it worked for him.”
With Drew Steckenrider unavailable because of usage and Casey Sadler, Paul Sewald and Diego Castillo used to get to the ninth, Servais turned to right-hander Erik Swanson to start the 10th. He never recorded an out and was charged with four runs (three earned) on two hits.
With no outs and the bases loaded, Justus Sheffield tried to put a tourniquet on the inning. He got Rafael Devers to hit a groundball to Ty France that resulted in a force out at home. But J.D. Martinez’s hard hit groundball to the left side was just out of the reach of a diving J.P. Crawford. Had it been 6 inches to the right, it’s an inning-ending double play and a one-run deficit. Instead, it opened up the floodgates to a lead Seattle had no chance to overcome.
Seattle got a solid start from Marco Gonzales despite allowing three runs in the first two innings.
After giving up a solo homer to Hunter Renfroe in the first, the Red Sox pushed the lead to 3-0 in the second though a misplayed ball in left field by Jake Fraley could’ve limited the damage.
It was the second straight game where a play on a catchable ball in the outfield wasn’t made, leading to runs.
But if there were any thoughts that Gonzales might let the game get out of reach, he quelled that notion immediately in the third inning, striking out Renfroe, Xander Bogaerts and Rafael Devers in order. It was the start of four straight scoreless innings where Gonzales didn’t allow a hit, walking one runner and striking out seven.
On his 110th pitch of the day, Gonzales struck out Martinez swinging.
He finished with six innings pitched, three runs allowed on three hits with two walks and seven strikeouts.
“The first inning that was a mistake to Renfroe, and he capitalized on it,” Gonzales said. “After that, I really don’t think that they put together much, not a ton of hard contact. We went in with a great game plan, we executed it.”
His teammates also answered with some immediate run support in the bottom of the third against Red Sox starter Tanner Houck.
A leadoff single from Kelenic followed by a single to right field for Tom Murphy resulted in a run. Kelenic tested the strong, but not always accurate throwing arm of Renfroe in right field by going first to third. The ball ended up in the camera well by the dugout, allowing Kelenic to score.
Later with two outs and runners on second and third, Kyle Seager punched a double down the third baseline to tie the game at 3-3.
Coming into the plate appearance, Seager had just one hit — a swinging bunt — in 21 plate appearances on the homestand.