The Mariners’ Nelson Cruz (right) celebrates with Dee Gordon in the dugout after hitting a two-run home run against the Indians in the sixth inning of a game March 31, 2018, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

The Mariners’ Nelson Cruz (right) celebrates with Dee Gordon in the dugout after hitting a two-run home run against the Indians in the sixth inning of a game March 31, 2018, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

Cruz suffers freak ankle injury in M’s 6-5 loss to Indians

The designated hitter slips in the dugout after hitting a home run and is scheduled for an MRI.

SEATTLE — Nelson Cruz twisted his right ankle on the final step heading from the dugout into the clubhouse — just after he smoked a two-run home run.

Of all the injuries the Seattle Mariners have sustained since the start of last season, continuing into spring training and even through just two games of 2018, manager Scott Servais finally almost lost it.

“I about wanted to throw up,” Servais said. “I don’t know any other way to put it.”

The injury haunted the Mariners in their 6-5 loss to the Indians on Saturday at Safeco Field. And Cruz’s hot bat — after homering for the second consecutive game — would have come in handy when Robinson Cano led off the bottom of the eighth inning with a double.

But Cruz, to the surprise of everyone in the stands, was actually in the clubhouse getting an X-ray on his ankle. So Guillermo Heredia pinch hit, flew out to left and Kyle Seager and Ryon Healy each struck out to end the Mariners’ best chance of tying the game.

“I felt bad. I was like, this should be my chance,” Cruz said of being pinch-hit for. “But it is what it is. I’ll be fine.”

Cruz was scheduled to get an MRI on the foot as the Mariners determine his availability for Sunday’s afternoon game to finish the series and beyond.

“I couldn’t even walk,” Cruz said.

Never mind that the Mariners had just placed catcher Mike Zunino on the disabled list because he strained his oblique on his final swing during batting practice on Wednesday — one day before Opening Day.

And after the Mariners were forced to use a club-record 61 different players throughout the 2017 season, while tying a major-league record with 40 pitchers used, they then lost reliever David Phelps with a week remaining in spring training to a season-ending tear of his ulnar collateral ligament.

Erasmo Ramirez is on the disabled list because of a lat strain, Hisashi Iwakuma is recovering from offseason elbow surgery and Ben Gamel from an oblique strain. And just about every player in the Mariners’ lineup missed some time with injuries during spring training, including newly acquired first baseman Ryon Healy needing surgery on his wrist.

Simply put — injuries have been the bane of Servais’ tenure with the Mariners. And their best hitter twisting his ankle on a set of stairs was a bit of a cherry on top.

“Kind of unbelievable with some of the thing we’ve gone through here,” Servais said.

“Our club has just battled through a bunch of nagging injuries here in spring training and then early in the season here.”

All that, and the Mariners still battled back in this one.

It started ugly. James Paxton, coming off a very good 2017 season, didn’t have his command out of the chute and it snowballed into a first-inning grand slam from former Mariner Yonder Alonso.

The big left-hander needed 29 pitches to get through the first inning — including nine pitches against veteran outfielder Rajai Davis with two outs. Davis walked and Alonso followed with the home run.

“I was having trouble finding it today,” Paxton said. “I was working hard to find that rhythm and it just didn’t come. It showed in the results.”

Paxton fell behind in the count against each of the first six batters he faced. He finished having allowed six runs in 4 2/3 innings — after only allowing six runs in a game once in 24 starts in 2017.

Last season he also didn’t allow a run in his first 23 innings pitched.

But it’s one start, with plenty more ahead.

“I wouldn’t read too much into it,” Servais said. “He’s healthy, just had an off day.

“I was surprised. We talked about the really top-notch pitchers in this league — you have to get them early. You can’t let them settle in. And Pax just had a hard time settling in there early.”

All six of those runs came on two home runs — from Alonso and Yan Gomes. But it could have been worse if not for 44-year-old Ichiro Suzuki looking like he’s 26 again.

Ichiro robbed the Indians’ Jose Ramirez of a sure homer in the top of the third inning, leaping at the wall in left field to bring it back from over the fence.

“He said, ‘Skip, that’s routine for me,’” Servais said. “I appreciated that. At 44 that wasn’t routine for me.”

Ichiro also got his first hit as a Mariner since July 21, 2012 — with an infield single, no less. Ichiro finished 2-for-4.

“You just shake your head and marvel at the guy,” Servais said. “His at-bats were outstanding.”

Mitch Haniger hit a solo home run in the second inning and the Mariners’ cut that early 4-0 Indians lead to 4-3 in the third when Ichiro, Dee Gordon, Jean Segura and Cano hit consecutive one-out singles. But the inning ended when Cruz’s hard-hit liner was hit right at Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis, who doubled up Segura at second base.

Cruz followed with his two-run home run in the sixth inning and the Mariners’ bullpen retired 13 consecutive batters behind Casey Lawrence, Marc Rzepcyznski and Dan Altavilla. But the comeback fell short.

“We played our tails off,” Servais said. “We got down early, Paxton was not sharp … but we hung in there and our at-bats were really good. We had chances, we just didn’t get the one big hit we needed.”

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