SAN DIEGO – Hours before the Mariners would take the field at Petco Park on Tuesday evening, Mallex Smith was alone near the wall in center field, preparing for the game.
Having played just one game in the park in his career, he wanted to make sure he got used to the area and unfamiliar surroundings. But there was the added incentive of working on catches near, against and over the wall. The last scenario in particular hadn’t been as successful as he wanted in the few opportunities this season.
So for the better part of 45 minutes, Smith took fly ball after fly ball near the wall, jumping, leaping and flinging his body against it, simulating the difficult plays that are asked of a center fielder.
The practice was prescient, but it didn’t quite pay off.
In a play that encapsulated so much of the Mariners’ 6-3 loss to the Padres, Smith turned a fly ball he was seemingly ready to catch into a two-run homer.
With two outs in the bottom of the sixth and the Mariners trailing 4-2, Padres catcher Austin Hedges hit a deep fly ball to center field. The ball tracked to be a home run and Smith sprinted after it, believing he could make the play he practiced earlier in the day.
At full speed and two steps onto the warning track, Smith leapt for the ball with his glove extended. It wasn’t going to be a home run until he made it one. The ball went into his glove and it looked like he was going to make a tough catch. Instead, the ball seemed to hit off his palm of his glove as he tried to close. The ball went flying out, carrying over the wall for a two-run homer.
After hitting the wall, landing on the warning track and realizing he hadn’t made the catch, Smith stayed faced down on the track with his hands over his head. If he could have crawled into the dirt and turf, he might have done it.
While Jose Canseco’s infamous play of having the ball bounce off his head and over the wall for a homer will live on in infamy on blooper reels, Smith’s play is sure to get plenty of play on social media and highlight shows for the remainder of the season.
With a batting average that has dropped under .200, costing him his spot at the top of the order, it hasn’t been fun times for Smith in the last few weeks.
To be fair, that play shouldn’t have happened. The Mariners were supposed to be out of the inning down just two runs, but Ryon Healy’s wayward throw to first base on a routine ground ball kept the inning going and allowed Hedges to come to the plate. It was Seattle’s second error of the game and 28th error of the season, which is far and away the most in MLB.
And that’s the problem of giving away outs – it leads to increased opportunities. The Mariners have hit their way past those issues against weaker teams, but this year’s version of the Padres seems to be a little bit better than the teams Seattle has beat up on this season.
Seattle starter Erik Swanson gave his team a commendable start with one forgettable inning.
After cruising through the first inning in 12 pitches, Swanson endured a 26-pitch second inning in which he gave up five hits that led to three runs, including a two-run homer to mammoth slugger Franmil Reyes. He left some fastballs over the middle of the plate and he paid for them.
But showing some maturity for a pitcher making his second big league start, Swanson regrouped and retired 10 of the next 11 hitters he faced.
After getting plenty of base runners against San Diego starter Nick Margevicius in the first four innings, but scoring no runs, the Mariners broke through in the fifth. Tim Beckham delivered a two-run, two-out single with the bases loaded to bring the Mariners within one at 3-2. His aggressive attempt to get an extra base on the play, however, ended the inning on the bases, which is never optimal.
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