By Bob Dutton The News Tribune
MIAMI — The longest road home seemed even longer Sunday for the Seattle Mariners after concluding a miserable road trip by coughing up a late lead in a 3-2 loss to Miami.
The Marlins struck for two runs in the eighth inning against Charlie Furbush and Tom Wilhelmsen. The game-winner was Adeiny Hechavarria’s sacrifice fly, but the game turned moments earlier on a play at the plate.
An overturned play.
A replay confirmed Christian Yelich beat the throw by first baseman Justin Smoak on Garrett Jones’ one-out grounder with the bases loaded. And that pretty much sums up how things are going at this point for the Mariners.
“The only way we’re going to come out of this,” manager Lloyd McClendon said, “is our guys have got to step up and perform a little better.”
The Mariners had a chance to answer in the ninth after Corey Hart opened the inning with a bloop double to right against Miami closer Steve Cishek. Pinch-runner Brad Miller went to third on Dustin Ackley’s grounder to short.
That grounder would have been a game-tying single if not for Hechavarria, who made a terrific diving stop and throw to retire Ackley.
“That (play) was a game-saver,” Marlins manager Mike Redmond said. “That’s why I feel that guy is the best shortstop in the league.”
Even so, the Mariners were still breathing; they had runners at first and third with one out after Smoak worked a walk. But Cishek slammed the door by striking out Nick Franklin and Michael Saunders.
So here we are: The Mariners have lost six in a row.
“It’s baseball,” Smoak said. “It’s just one of those things. You’ve just got to come back (today) and get better. Go at it again.”
Mike Dunn (1-2) got the victory for working a scoreless eighth. Cishek got his third save. Wilhelmsen (0-1) was the loser.
It started well.
The Mariners built a 2-0 lead for Brandon Maurer, recalled from Class AAA Tacoma and pressed into service on a limited pitch count because of injuries in the rotation.
Smoak had a sacrifice fly in the second inning, and Ackley added one in the fourth. Both came against Miami starter Kevin Slowey.
Maurer didn’t allow a hit until Jones beat an overshifted infield with a soft grounder for a one-out single in the fifth. Maurer then walked Hechavarria on four pitches.
Donovan Solano followed by serving an RBI single into right, which trimmed the lead to 2-1 and finished Maurer, who admitted he hit a wall.
“Yeah, a big one,” he said. “I ran right into it. My mechanics, I lost it a little bit there. It felt good through the first four.”
Relievers Dominic Leone, Joe Beimel, Danny Farquhar and Furbush nursed that lead into the eighth and … yeah, OK, let’s review the eighth.
Furbush opened the inning by losing a left-on-left leadoff battle when Yelich sliced a double off the left-field wall.
Wilhelmsen replaced Furbush and retired Marcell Ozuna on a fly to left before issuing an intentional walk to Giancarlo Stanton, whose walk-off grand slam boosted the Marlins to an 8-4 victory in Friday’s series opener.
An unintentional walk to Casey McGehee, which included a few close pitches, loaded the bases.
“I was wanting to keep the ball low,” Wilhelmsen said. “I was hoping for a double play. Some guys call them (for strikes). Some guys don’t. I’ve got to look at that and realize he’s not calling them and make an adjustment.”
Jones followed with that grounder to first, which seemed to be exactly what Wilhelmsen and the Mariners needed. It looked like a sure out at home and a possible inning-ending double play when Smoak fielded the ball.
Umpire Ed Hickox signaled an out on a close play at the plate, but Redmond challenged the call. The replay showed Yelich clearly beat the throw.
“I thought I beat it from the get-go,” he said, “and then I saw him call me out, I kind of started yelling at him a little bit, telling him I was safe.”
Smoak insisted he didn’t bobble the ball.
“I think the hop gave (Yelich) time to get down the line,” Smoak said. “I fielded it and made a good throw. He just beat it.”
The game was tied, and the Marlins still had the bases loaded with one out. Wilhelmsen fell behind 3-0 on Hechavarria before surrendering a sacrifice fly to right. The Marlins led 3-2, which is how it ended.
Correction: That’s how the game ended. The Mariners’ day was far from over; they still had a 61⁄2-hour flight back to Sea-Tac.
“We’ll get out of this,” Wilhelmsen said. “We know we’re a much better team. There’s no other way to feel, either. We know what we have here, and the chemistry we’ve got going. It’s just a little bump in the road.”
Correction: Six little bumps.