SEATTLE -- This time, the offense wasn't the problem.
There have been so many games where tepid hitting and lack of runs could be pinpointed as the downfall of the Mariners.
But on a sunny and cool Mother's Day, the 30,447 fans at Safeco Field got more than enough offense to cheer about. Seattle scored seven runs on 11 hits with two home runs.
And yet that wasn't enough, thanks to some lackluster defense.
The Mariners were charged with five errors--though it could have been more. The five errors resulted in two unearned runs, but led to many more.
Add it up and it resulted in a 9-7 loss. The Mariners (19-18) split a four-game series with Kansas City. It was an opportunity wasted.
"Listen, we didn't play a very good game," manager Lloyd McClendon said. "You can analyze it anyway you want to. I told my team that. We didn't play very good. We kicked ourselves ... today. It's that simple."
McClendon had no interest in discussing the five errors and the other suspect plays in the field. He was clearly agitated with what he saw.
"One thing I don't do is make excuses for guys," he said. "The onus is on my players in that locker room today. If you've got questions about errors, go talk to them."
Dustin Ackley, who didn't make an error but did hit two home runs, served as the defense's spokesman.
"Sometimes they are as contagious as hitting," Ackley said of the errors. "We got to scratch this one. It was a tough game. I think we should have won it. But we are going to have these games. I think we are also going to have games that we aren't supposed to win that we do win. It's one of those things where we have to come back strong tomorrow."
Even with the inconsistent glove work in the field, the Mariners held a 7-5 lead going into the seventh inning.
After 16 scoreless innings, the bullpen finally cracked.
Danny Farquhar gave up a double to Eric Hosmer to start the inning. Farquhar came back to strike out Billy Butler, but walked Danny Valencia and Alex Gordon to load the bases. Farquhar threw borderline pitches to both Valencia and Gordon with two strikes that were called balls. Judging by his reaction, the reaction of catcher Mike Zunino and the Mariners' dugout, they didn't agree with the calls of plate umpire Marcus Pattillo--a Class AAA umpire working this series.
"It's tough and it happens, but you have to move on," Farquhar said of the missed called third strikes. "You can't let the inning build on that. And I didn't execute pitches like I wanted to."
With the bases loaded, Lorenzo Cain hit a sacrifice fly to center field to score a run. With two outs, Johnny Giovatella jumped all over a first-pitch cutter and hammered it into the visitor's bullpen in left field for a three-run homer.
Farquhar (University of Louisiana-Lafayette) played against Giovatella (New Orleans) in college and saw him do that to other pitchers on the first pitch.
"I kind of knew he was an ambusher," Farquhar said. "I should have been more locked in and executed the first pitch better."
The Mariners got an uneven start from Roenis Elias. The young left-hander has certainly been sharper this season. His command of his pitches came and went for much of his outing. He lasted five innings, giving up five runs (three earned) on nine hits with a walk and five strikeouts.
"I felt good out there, but it's baseball and not every game is going to be good for you," Elias said through translator Fernando Alcala.
While Elias' command wasn't good, the defense behind him was worse. In the second inning, the Royals hit a pair of ground balls to third base--sandwiched around a single to left field from Alex Gordon. The first ground ball, which short-hopped Kyle Seager as he moved to his left, was ruled a hit for Valencia. The second ball--a routine two-hopper off the bat of Cain that should have been a double play--was ruled an error when Seager, who had missed the last two games with the flu, simply misplayed it.
Regardless of the official scoring, it loaded the bases for Alcides Escobar, who unloaded them quickly, belting a first-pitch fastball over the wall in left field for his first career grand slam.
"It was a fastball," Elias said. "It was the first pitch I threw him today and he jumped on it."
The Mariners answered in the bottom of the third. Ackley led off by hammering a homer over the wall in center field off Royals starter Jeremy Guthrie. Guthrie hit Stefen Romero with a pitch and Mike Zunino singled, setting up the slumping Brad Miller, who was 0 for 19 entering the at-bat. Miller delivered, doubling to the right-center gap to cut the lead to 4-3.
Seattle gave a run right back in the top of the fourth. Justin Smoak mishandled a slow ground ball with a runner on third, allowing another unearned run to score to make it 5-3.
Smoak and Seager tried to atone for their mistakes in the bottom of the fourth. Smoak singled to right with one out. Seager then yanked a pitch down the right-field line for a two-run homer to tie the score at 5. Ackley immediately gave Seattle a lead, blasting his second homer of the game--a shot into right-center--to make it 6-5. It was the first multi-homer game of his career.
The Mariners pushed it to 7-5 in the fifth. James Jones led off the inning with a double and Corey Hart singled him home.
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