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DENVER — There was no question the ball was going out when it left thebat of Trevor Story. Given the park, the hitter and what has beentranspiring for the Seattle Mariners, it was only a question of how far.
The answer: Not even close enough for center fielder Ben Gamel to makea hollow effort at a game-saving catch.
Story’s walk-off home run in the bottom of the ninth inning gave theRockies a 4-3 win Sunday and sent the Mariners’ reeling, stumbling andtripping into the All-Star break.
Yes, Seattle (58-39) has had a brilliant first half of the season. But thepast 11 games — of which it has lost eight, including being swept in thisthree-game series at Coors Field — was a reminder of mediocrity past.
Panic? Maybe not. But this was a reminder that the Mariners and theirpostseason hopes are far from guaranteed.
With Sunday’s loss — the Mariners’ fourth in a row — and Oakland’s 6-2win over San Francisco, the M’s lead over the Athletics in the AL wild-card race is down to three games.
“I’m really proud of our club,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said. “Wehad a really nice first half of the season. These guys continue to compete,all the time. … I thought we had a good chance to win this one today andget off on a bit of a high note.
“We put ourselves in a position by the way we played the first half to gaina good spot here down the stretch in the second half and hopefully getwhere we ultimately want to go, and that’s in the playoffs. This teamcertainly has enough talent to do that.”
Mariners starting pitcher Mike Leake did his job Sunday, bouncing backfrom two less-than-stellar outings. He pitched six innings, allowing tworuns on six hits with a walk and two strikeouts in a game played throughsteady rain.
Leake probably could have kept going if not for his spot in the ordercoming up in the seventh inning with a runner on second.
But the Mariners’ failure to hit at a park that rewards hitters cost themthe game. And this recent anemia at the plate isn’t limited to just thisseries, but also the prior two series that they lost.
The Mariners grabbed a 2-0 lead in the first inning Sunday againstRockies starter Tyler Anderson. Consecutive singles from Dee Gordon,Jean Segura and Mitch Haniger led to the first run, giving Haniger 67 RBIbefore the All-Star break.
Later in the inning, with two out, Denard Spandoubled into the gap in left-center to make it 2-0.
From there, Anderson settled in, retiring 14 straight batters and working six innings, allowing just those two runs on five hits a walk and sixstrikeouts.
The Rockies answered in the third inning, scoring their only two runs offof Leake. A two-out walk to D.J. LeMahieu started the problems. CharlieBlackmon followed with a broken bat single to center and Nolan Arenadosingled to right field. With the wet conditions, Mitch Haniger dropped theslippery baseball as he went to throw the ball and then stumbled on thesoaked turf. It allowed both runners to score.
Seattle grabbed a brief 3-2 lead in the top of the seventh against leftyJake McGee. Guillermo Heredia led off with a single and moved to secondon David Freitas sacrifice bunt. After pinch-hitter Nelson Cruz struck outswinging, Dee Gordon delivered with two outs, lacing a single on a 3-2pitch to left to score Heredia.
But Juan Nicasio gave the run right back in the bottom of the inning. Alead-off triple to Ian Desmond in which Haniger fell down on the soakedturf eventually led to a run on ex-Mariner Chris Iannetta’s sacrifice fly toleft field.
In the ninth, Story worked the count to 2-2 against Nick Vincent (3-2)before hitting a drive over the wall in left-center.
“I saw a couple pitches, started feeling a little bit more comfortable andthat one was just a little more over the plate,” Story said.