ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – A routine pop-up behind second base isn’t always that when young infielders are still getting a taste of life in the majors.
And the Mariners found out the hard way once again in the fifth inning of a 7-1 loss Thursday night to the Tampa Bay Rays as second baseman Nick Franklin got crossed up with shortstop Brad Miller.
A ball dropped between them for a hit, and two hits later Mariners starter Joe Saunders had given up four runs in the inning. The repercussions of the missed play could be felt throughout a silent visitors’ clubhouse in the aftermath of another series that slipped away.
“The ball was, I think, right at me and I just called it,’’ Franklin said of the Sean Rodriguez blooper. “It was just a miscommunication. It happened.’’
Miller said of the play: “It was just a little miscommunication, but you’ve got to have that one.’’
Both players said they called for the ball initially, but Franklin was the more demonstrative – waving his arms with authority.
“I guess he broke on it pretty good and when I looked, he was kind of camped under it,’’ Miller said. “And then I was like ‘Dang! Why’d I call it?’ And then we both backed off.’’
Wil Myers followed by drilling a two-run double. Evan Longoria then launched a two-run homer to make it 5-1, and the Mariners were never in it again.
Saunders was lifted one out into the fifth and was clearly frustrated afterward by the missed pop-up.
“That was just one of those turning points in the game where a half-inning before we had the bases loaded and they struck a guy out and (it) gave them momentum. Then we give it right back to them. It was just hard to recover from that. That was pretty much the turning point in the game.”
Raul Ibanez did the only Seattle damage on the scoreboard with a solo homer to right field off Cobb in the second. It was the first home run for Ibanez in 90 plate appearances since July 12.
Ibanez has 25 home runs, making him the first Mariners hitter to reach that mark since Russell Branyan in 2009. He is also four home runs behind Ted Williams for the most by a player in the season they turned 41.
Ibanez entered the night hitting just .187 with no home runs and an on-base-plus slugging mark of .496 since the All-Star break.
Ibanez admitted that the break really didn’t help him.
“You know, after the break, obviously, I haven’t really felt great,’’ he said. “Those days off, I don’t know that they treated me well. They treated some guys well, but didn’t treat me very well. But as of late, I think I’ve been putting together better at-bats. I’m swinging the bat a little better.’’