Leading early by four runs and with their best starting pitcher again flashing dominance, Saturday night looked like it had the potential to be more than all right for the Seattle Mariners against the Los Angeles Angels in Anaheim.
But maybe typifying a season – if not an entire franchise history – in which nothing good ever seems to last long enough, the game quickly unraveled, ultimately turning into as bad a night as Seattle has had all year.
Not only did the Mariners see the Angels score 11 unanswered runs to rally for a 12-5 win, they also experienced the unnerving sight of pitcher Yusei Kikuchi leaving in the fifth inning with a right knee contusion, just the latest in a season marred by injuries.
That prognosis, though, seemed better than the injury itself looked.
Seattle, which took a 5-1 lead after Jake Fraley’s grand slam in the fourth, still led 5-2 going to the bottom of the fifth with Kikuchi having already struck out eight.
Taylor Ward led off the inning with a single.
David Fletcher followed and on an 0-2 pitch, hit a hard grounder that bounced maybe 30 feet in front of the plate and then hit Kikuchi on the inside of the right knee. Kikuchi then fell awkwardly to the ground.
The ball bounded back to catcher Jose Godoy, who threw wildly and high past first base, allowing Ward to score to make it 5-3.
But far more disconcerting was what was going on at the mound, as Kikuchi lay writhing in pain face down. He eventually turned over as trainers came to the field, initially placing his hat over his face in pain and frustration.
It didn’t take long for trainers to decide to simply get Kikuchi off the field as quickly as possible and he was helped to the locker room unable to put any weight on the leg.
Kikuchi has been one of the hottest pitchers in the majors of late – he entered the game with a streak of six straight quality starts dating to April 29 tied for the second-longest active streak in the majors – and was already just three strikeouts shy of his career high before departing.
Seattle has already suffered significant losses to its overall roster, but especially its pitching staff, due to injury this year and can ill afford losing Kikuchi for any length of time. Notably, James Paxton was lost for the season after throwing just 24 pitches in his first start. And opening day starter Marco Gonzalez was lost for more than a month due to an arm injury.
J.T. Chargois came on and got two quick outs before Anthony Rendon singled up the middle to drive in Fletcher and make it 5-4 heading to the sixth.
The Angels then completed the comeback when Ward hit a two-run homer off Drew Steckenrider – who was making his first appearance since May 18 after going on the COVID-19 Injured List.
That made it 6-5. The Angels got another run in the seventh to make it 7-5 and then five more in the eighth to turn it into a rout.
After Fraley’s homer, the game appeared headed to be another win against an AL West opponent – the Mariners entered the game having gone 8-4 in their previous 12 games in what is a stretch of 14 straight games against AL West foes.
The Angels grabbed a 1-0 lead when Shohei Ohtani hit a one-out solo homer off Kikuchi in the bottom of the first.
The Mariners went down so easily in the first three innings that, considering some of the history of this season, it was already tempting to wonder if this might be a night they’d be in danger of getting no-hit.
Instead, the Mariners broke out in the fourth – first gradually and then suddenly.
Seattle used a walk, bloop single to right and a hit by pitch to load the bases with one out.
Traylor Trammell then drove in the first run on a hit that bounced just a few feet in front of the plate and over the head of Alex Cobb – high enough to allow for no play to be made and J.P. Crawford to race home to make It 1-1.
Fraley then fell behind 0-2 and after taking.a ball on a splitter just off the plate, hit another 88-mile an hour splitter just over the center field wall to make it 5-1.
Cobb righted himself after Fraley’s homer, retiring the next 11 in a row before leaving after the seventh, allowing the Angels to rally.
Seattle had a brief chance to get back in it when Crawford led off the eighth with a double against former Mariner closer Steve Cishek.
Mitch Haniger followed with what seemed like a harmless grounder to short. But Angels shortstop Jose Iglesias, who had been activated off the 10-day IL before the game, overran the ball and it went under his glove and unto left field, putting runners at first and third and no outs.
But the Angels then brought on lefty Tony Watson who doused the fire about as quickly as possible, first striking out Kyle Seager and then getting Ty France to hit into a double play.
Seattle, which fell to 29-31 and six games back of the A’s in the West, finished with just four hits. None were by rookie Jarred Kelenic, who received a vote of confidence from manager Scott Servais before the game.
But putting a fitting capper on the night, Kelenic struck out to end the game and finish 0-4 for the night and now mired in a 0-39 hitless streak to see his average fall .098.
The two teams conclude the four-game series Sunday at 1:07 p.m. before the Mariners then head for three games in Detroit and three more in Cleveland.
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