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Sports >  Seattle Mariners

Late blunders doom Mariners in third straight loss to Yankees in pivotal wild-card series

Aug. 7, 2021 Updated Sat., Aug. 7, 2021 at 9:43 p.m.

New York Yankees' Rougned Odor reacts after hitting a home run in front of Seattle Mariners catcher Tom Murphy during the sixth inning of a baseball game on Saturday, Aug. 7, 2021, in New York.  (Associated Press)
New York Yankees' Rougned Odor reacts after hitting a home run in front of Seattle Mariners catcher Tom Murphy during the sixth inning of a baseball game on Saturday, Aug. 7, 2021, in New York. (Associated Press)
By Ryan Divish Seattle Times

NEW YORK – They’ve found themselves in this situation more than once this season, reeling into the expected reality of a team that was expected to be below average at best and 90 losses at worst by baseball analysts and predictive algorithms.

Each time, they’ve avoided the predicted season-defining disaster, dragging themselves out of the downward spiral and finding success.

Right now, they are reeling at the worst possible time. With a disappointing 5-4 loss to the Yankees on a muggy Saturday afternoon, the Mariners have lost four straight games and the first three games of this pivotal four-game series to a team they are, possibly were, competing with for the second wild-card spot.

Can they find a way to do it one more time with their fading postseason hopes depending on it?

Getting out of the city that never sleeps and the ballpark where they never seem to catch a break with a victory in Sunday’s series finale would be vital. The Mariners will send left-hander Yusei Kikuchi to the mound while New York will start rookie right-hander Luis Gil in place of ace Gerrit Cole, who is missing his second scheduled start on the COVID injured list

.

The Mariners scored four runs in the first two innings and never sniffed another run, a perfect recipe for failure on the day.

After being given a 2-0 lead before throwing a pitch, starter Chris Flexen struggled in the first inning, serving up a two-out solo blast to Aaron Judge and needing 30 pitches to complete the inning.

But as he’s done so often, Flexen made an in-game adjustment and gave Seattle a solid outing. He worked the next four innings scoreless, allowing just two baserunners and reeling in his pitch count.

It was an impressive turnaround considering the lineup he was facing and the looming homer on every pitch.

With Flexen’s pitch count at 91 and lefty Anthony Misiewicz up and throwing in the bullpen, manager Scott Servais let his starter return for the sixth inning, hoping to steal a few more outs to provide some relief for a bullpen that’s been heavily taxed on this road trip. He also knew the moment Misiewicz entered the game that Yankees manager Aaron Boone would go to his bench for right-handed hitters Gleyber Torres and Kyle Higashioka.

Flexen gave up a leadoff single to Giancarlo Stanton to start the sixth and got Rougned Odor to put an ugly lunging swing on a change-up about 6 inches below the strike zone. Odor managed to get the barrel of the bat on the ball, sending a looping fly ball to right field.

Mitch Haniger could only watch as the ball somehow went just over the wall in right field for a two-run homer, sparking a four-run inning.

Per MLB Statcast, Odor’s homer had an exit velocity of 89 mph with a 32-degree launch angle and traveled 328 feet.

Based on their metrics, a fly ball in play with those measures has an expected batting average of .030.

Of course, Statcast doesn’t factor in the short porch that is right field in Yankee Stadium.

Only one homer hit this season has a lower exit velocity. It was 88.7 mph off the bat of Abraham Toro against the M’s on July 26 at T-Mobile Park. Toro was traded to the Mariners the next day.

Odor’s cheap homer ended Flexen’s outing with Seattle clinging to a 4-3 lead.

With Misiewicz on the mount, the inning went from bad to decisively worse when Torres, who was called on to pinch hit, lofted a high fly ball to right field that Haniger overran and then fell awkwardly trying to correct his mistake. The ball hit the outfield grass, allowing Torres to advance all the way to third.

As expected, Higashioka did pinch hit against Misiewicz. He tied the game on double off the wall to left.

The Yankees took the lead when Judge wisely stayed hung up on in a rundown after Ty France fielded a ground ball to first base and stepped on the bag. Knowing there was no longer a force play, Judge stopped midway between first and second. Higashioka hustled home with the game-winning run when France fired to second base.

The Mariners scored two runs off of lefty Andrew Heaney in the first inning on Kyle Seager’s two-run homer to right field. They added two more runs in the second inning of Heaney on a bases-loaded walk and a sac fly from Haniger.

But they were held the scoreless the rest of the way, managing just two more hits over the final seven innings.

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