NEW YORK – For the first time since April 17-19, the Mariners have lost three games in a row.
For many fans beaten down by the failures of seasons past, anxiety, panic, fatalism or some form of all three seem to be Pavlovian responses.
Inside the visitor’s clubhouse of Yankees Stadium minutes after Giancarlo Stanton turned a horribly misplaced 0-2 slider from Ryan Cook into a 118 mph vapor trail to left-center for a two-run walk-off homer and a crushing 7-5 defeat for Seattle, the atmosphere was like just about any other loss in a season where there have been far more wins.
“We’ve walked off on quite a few people this year,” M’s manager Scott Servais said. “It’s going to happen. We’ve got a good thing going here. We’ll bounce back tomorrow.”
There were no overturned tables or punched doors. Their second walk-off loss of the season was a frustrating defeat with a gut-punch of an ending, but in typical baseball fashion, another game loomed in less than 24 hours.
It was time to start moving on.
“We’re running into some really good teams and we are still playing really well,” catcher Mike Zunino said. “We just have to keep grinding these games out and snag one tomorrow. We have gotten plenty of breaks this season and the last couple of days we had some stuff go against us. It’s all about how you respond to it. And these guys are good about it in this clubhouse.”
Cook was obviously furious about the outcome. He’d retired the first two batters of the inning with ease and then allowed a single to Didi Gregorius that brought Stanton to the plate. A first-pitch slider for a called strike and a fouled off 96 mph fastball put Cook up 0-2.
The plan was to bury a slider low and away to get Stanton to chase for strike three. It’s something he’s prone to do.
“Bury it off the plate and get his eyes off it, especially after the fastball up he chased,” Zunino said.
But the slider stayed right in the middle of the plate.
“I just didn’t throw it where I wanted to throw it, simple as that,” Cook said. “They’re good hitters and good hitters hit bad pitches. I felt great the whole time, but I just didn’t execute there.”
That Cook was pitching in the ninth inning of the game instead of closer Edwin Diaz came from the failures of setup man Alex Colome, who couldn’t protect a 5-3 lead in the eighth.
After coming in with two outs and striking out Stanton to end the seventh, Colome issued a leadoff walk Gleyber Torres to start the problems in the eighth. Facing Gary Sanchez, Colome hung a 1-1 cutter that was hammered into left-center for a game-tying two-run homer.
“We made a couple mistakes and when you do that against this ballclub and in this park, bad things can happen,” Servais said. “Our guys in the bullpen have been very good all year long. It was just not their night.”
The failures in the eighth spoiled what was solid effort from starter Felix Hernandez, who was in line to get the win.
Hernandez worked through five innings against the Yankees’ potent lineup, allowing two runs on six hits with a walk and six strikeouts in 95 pitches.
“It was a pretty good outing except for only going five innings,” Hernandez said. “I should have stayed in longer, but I threw a lot of pitches in that fifth inning.”
Facing the Yankees’ lineup isn’t just physically draining. It wears you down mentally, knowing a pitch that even barely misses can be pulverized.
“That’s the problem – you can’t make any mistakes, especially here,” Hernandez said. “If you make good pitches, you’ll be fine.”
The two runs allowed came in the fifth with a 5-0 lead. Aaron Judge slapped a two-out single just out of the reach of Jean Segura that scored a pair.
“He emptied the tank to get through that inning,” Servais said.
Yankees starter Jonathan Loasigia held the Mariners scoreless for the first three innings. The rookie right-hander might have lulled them into a daze, working at a slow pace while going full count to almost every hitter.
The Mariners broke through in the fifth with the help of the Yankees’ defense. After Denard Span got a little overaggressive on the bases after a single to left field, second baseman Torres to tried to throw out Span as he retreated to first base. Instead, he airmailed the throw over Greg Bird’s head, allowing Kyle Seager to score.
But the big hit came later in the inning with runners on second and third with two outs. Facing lefty reliever Chasen Shreve, Dee Gordon lined a 3-2 fastball up the middle to score both runners, giving Seattle a 3-0 lead.
The Mariners added two more runs in the fifth. Nelson Cruz scored from third on Span’s fly ball to center field. Bothered by leg injuries early in the season, Cruz showed that he’s feeling healthy, challenging the strong arm of Aaron Hicks in center, and diving head first into home to make it 4-0. Ryon Healy followed with an RBI single to score Seager to make it 5-0.
“I thought our approach was very good tonight,” Servais said. “Our guys were disappointed with the approach (Tuesday night) of not making their guy work and not getting their pitch to hit. I thought we did a good job early in the game.”
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