Not much went right for the Seattle Mariners on Friday night. At least the postgame fireworks weren’t duds.
Otherwise, the Mariners continued to be plagued by errors in the field. And they could only watch as their former shortstop, who committed his fair share of errors while in a Mariners’ uniform, hit a victory-crushing grand slam.
Seattle infielders booted three ground balls in the first two innings, leading to five unearned runs and Yuniesky Betancourt hit his second grand slam of the season, turning a likely loss into a laugher as the Milwaukee Brewers prevailed, 10-5, at Safeco Field.
It’s tough to know what was more frustrating for Mariners fans to watch.
The miscues in the field are certainly a concern for Seattle.
Over the last 10 games, the Mariners have committed 12 errors and realistically could have been charged with a handful more.
“It’s been frustrating,” acting manager Robby Thompson said. “It’s been more frustrating as we continue on.”
The errors were sort of expected from rookies Brad Miller and Nick Franklin because of their inexperience at the big league level. But on Friday, even Kyle Seager, who is normally pretty sure-handed, was plagued by the issues as well.
They offered little if any help for starting pitcher Joe Saunders. He retired the first nine batters he faced. But with one out in the third inning, Franklin made an off throw to first base on Scooter Gennett’s ground ball. Seager then bobbled a ground ball from slow-running catcher Martin Maldonado and threw the ball away allowing both runners advance into scoring position.
Saunders should have been out of the inning. Instead, he gave up a ground rule double Norichika Aoki to give the Brewers a 2-0 lead.
In the third inning with a runner on first, Seager couldn’t make the play on a one-out ground ball off the bat of Betancourt that was a sure double play despite the tough hop.
“Kyle has had tough stretch here,” Thompson said. “He just needs to remember how good he is down there and not fall into that trouble of feeling uncomfortable.”
It was probably hard for Seager to remember it after he watched Jeff Bianchi single home a run and Maldonado drop a two-run double into left. Suddenly, the Mariners were down 5-0 in a game that should have been 0-0 or 1-0 at worst.
“Joe got the ground balls and we didn’t make the plays behind him,” Thompson said.
All those extra pitches and outs multiplied Saunders’ pitch count and frustration level. Everything fell apart in the fifth inning. He gave up a lead-off single to Jean Segura, who stole second base. Saunders got a ground ball out, but then issued back-to-back walks to load the bases.
Betancourt unloaded them quickly, jumping on a 1-1 slider and hitting it into Edgar’s Cantina in left field.
It was Betancourt’s 13th homer this season and his sixth grand slam of his career. It was also the second grand slam he’s hit against his former team.
“I think he was getting a little bit tired and walked a couple there in the inning they hit the grand slam,” Thompson said of Saunders. “But overall, I didn’t think he was that bad on the mound.”
Saunders’ night was done after the grand slam. He threw 4 1/3 innings. Of the nine runs scored on him, only the four from the grand slam were earned.
“He’s our teammate and he battled his butt off out there,” said first baseman Justin Smoak. “It was just one of those games.”
Saunders didn’t speak to the media postgame. He was mildly peeved after some defensive miscues in a loss in Boston. Five unearned runs and falling to 10-11 on the season, certainly wasn’t going to make him feel any better.
The Mariners didn’t do much offensively on the night. Milwaukee starter Kyle Lohse (8-7) worked seven innings giving up two runs on six hits with three walks and seven strikeouts.
Seager atoned for the second-inning miscue by delivering a two-run single in the bottom of the inning to tie the game at 2-2.
The Mariners got a run in the seventh on an RBI single from Nick Franklin and then Justin Smoak continued his hot hitting, blasting a two-run homer to left-center off of right-hander Alfredo Figaro in the eighth inning. It was Smoak’s 12th homer of the season and extended his hitting streak to a season-high nine games. During that stretch he’s hitting .394 (13-for-33) with three doubles, three homers and seven RBI.
“The guy was throwing hard and I was just trying to make contact,” Smoak said.
The Mariners brought in starter Erasmo Ramirez to relief Saunders. Ramirez had been skipped in the rotation, but Friday would have been his normal day to pitch. Thompson said Ramirez, who threw 1 2/3 innings, got a decent work day and will still start in TampaBay either Tuesday or Wednesday.
Carter Capps pitched two scoreless innings in relief, giving up just one hit and striking out two.