SEATTLE —The strategy worked and yet the Seattle Mariners still weren’t rewarded.
Seattle went back to its often criticized strategy of using an opener, and while that worked as planned, the Los Angeles Angels won anyway, 6-2 on Saturday night at T-Mobile Park.
And it all came down to the inability to get under an easy infield pop-up.
Mariners reliever Roenis Elias was apparently out of the ninth inning of a 2-2 game when he got Luis Rengifo to hit a towering pop-up. Elias indicated he had it, but he didn’t, the ball landed a couple of feet to his side.
It was ruled a single but it was a play a little leaguer should make, and it cost the Mariners dearly when David Fletcher followed with a go-ahead single, which was followed by a three-run homer from Mike Trout.
It was a tough ending to what had been a taut pitcher’s duel, with suspense on every pitch.
A few hours earlier, Matt Wisler did something many others have not done as a Seattle opener: get through his inning without allowing a run. But starting a game was not foreign to Wisler, having started 49 games in the big leagues (none as an opener) before Saturday’s appearance.
Wade LeBlanc followed Wisler. A week before, LeBlanc was shelled the week by the Angels, allowing six runs in four innings.
Not this time. He allowed two runs in five innings, and it might have been better with some better defense behind him.
The Mariners scored first after loading the bases with no outs in the second. But they were only able to score one run, on a Dee Gordon sacrifice fly.
The Mariners pushed the lead to 2-0 when Omar Narvaez’s two-out single drove home J.P. Crawford, but the Angels answered with a pair of runs in the fourth. The runs were earned but Tim Beckham, starting in the outfield for the first time this season, missed a catchable ball in foul territory to left field one pitch before Albert Pujols walked to load the bases with no outs.
Kole Calhoun followed by hitting into a double play that scored a run. Had Beckham made the catch on the play before, Calhoun’s grounder might have ended the inning.
Pitching dominated after that, with both bullpens pitching great. It was clear that one mistake could prove fatal.
And indeed that was the case as the Mariners, held to one hit after the third inning, were left to wonder what might have been with a little better defense.