MIAMI – The 36th and final pitch of an interminable fifth inning was a biting slider headed for the back foot of Avisail Garcia, producing an awkward swinging strike three from the big right-handed slugger.
It was the type of slider Robbie Ray had thrown with great success in four dominant innings to start Saturday night. But it was perhaps the only one he threw in the inning that ultimately cost him and the Mariners a victory.
Cruising to what appeared to be his best start in a Mariners uniform, Ray’s pinpoint command went awry, and his outing fell apart in that pitch-filled fifth that featured three runs on three hits with three frustrating walks.
Stymied by the Marlins’ pitching staff, continuing a frustrating trend over the past four days, the Mariners couldn’t recover from that game-changing inning with a rally, instead suffering a 3-1 defeat.
It was their fourth consecutive loss on the Florida portion of the current nine-game road trip. Seattle will try to avoid being swept in the three-game series, sending right-hander Logan Gilbert to the mound in Sunday’s finale. Miami will start right-hander Sandy Alcantara, who is 2-0 with a 1.78 ERA on the season.
“That was some kind of pitching that was fired out there tonight from both sides,” manager Scott Servais said. “We knew coming in the game was probably going to be a low-scoring game, but they were able to put an inning together and we weren’t.”
Ray held the Marlins scoreless through the first four innings, allowing only Jesus Aguilar, who had a first-inning single and fourth-inning walk, to reach base and striking out six batters.
“I thought it was probably the best we’ve seen him at any point all season,” Servais said. “His stuff was really crisp. He had a good slider going. His fastball had great life on it.”
Pitching in the climate-controlled environment, Ray worked with rhythm and his typical intensity.
“I felt really good,” he said. “The ball felt like it was coming out really good, fastball was good, slider was good. It was definitely the best I’ve felt.”
His teammates … well, Dylan Moore … had provided him a 1-0 lead. Moore got on top of a 96-mph fastball from Miami starter Jesus Luzardo, turning the elevated pitch into a solo homer to left field.
“D-Mo is getting on a nice run here,” M’s manager Scott Servais said. “He hasn’t played much early in the season. I’ve got him in there against some left-handers, but he’s been swinging the bat really good. He’s made some good adjustments. You could see it in the spring and it’s going to play out for him as the season goes along and he’s going to get plenty of opportunities.”
But one run wasn’t enough.
Brian Anderson was the first Marlin to reach second base when he fought off a 1-2 slider, sending a fly ball that bounced over the wall for a leadoff double to start the fifth. Anderson advanced to third on Miguel Rojas’ deep fly out to right. Understanding that runs were going to be scarce in the game, Servais had the infield play in on the grass with one out to try keep the run from scoring. Instead, Bryan De La Cruz singled past a diving J.P. Crawford to tie the game at 1.
The inning got worse from there as Ray walked No. 9 hitter Payton Henry and gave up a looping single to Jon Berti that scored De La Cruz and give Miami a 2-1 lead.
It looked as if Ray might keep the deficit to just one run when he struck out Aguilar for the second out of the inning. But he issued back-to-back walks to Jorge Soler, who he had struck out in the previous two at-bats, and Garrett Cooper to force in a run.
“I think I just lost a little bit of focus,” he said. “After the double and then getting out, the guy moves to third. And on the ground ball, I felt like I made a pretty good pitch. It came up short. I lost a little bit of focus there and it was self-inflicted from there on.”
When he finally struck out Garcia to end the fifth, Ray looked disgusted as he stalked off the mound. The walks chafed him.
“It’s just unacceptable,” he said. “I’ve just got to be better.”
Meanwhile the Mariners did nothing more against Luzardo. The former touted A’s prospect pitched six innings, allowing the one run on two hits with two walks and five strikeouts to get the win.
After failing to do anything with base runners in the seventh and eighth inning, the Mariners made a last-gasp effort in the ninth against Marlins closer Anthony Bender. Jesse Winker notched his second hit of the game with one out, and J.P. Crawford picked up his second hit of the game with two outs to bring the go-ahead run to the plate. With runners on first and third, Bender struck out Luis Torrens swinging to end the game and notched his sixth save of the season.
“It’s hitting with runners in scoring position,” Servais said. “When you play these tight games against really good pitching, you’ve got to find a way to get it done. We just haven’t gotten it done here the last three or four days. We’re fine. It goes in streaks like that. It’s just a matter of getting through it right now. We’re in the middle of a long, tough road trip.”
The Mariners knew they’d face tough pitching matchups on this road trip.
“You’ve got to give a ton of credit to Luzardo and the Marlins have got really good pitching,” Servais said. “We knew that coming into this series. Their starting pitching is outstanding. They’ve got some guys with some different looks in the bullpen.”
Haniger sent to 10-day IL
One day after being activated from the COVID injured list, Mitch Haniger was placed on the 10-day injured list with a right high-ankle sprain.
The Mariners recalled outfielder Stuart Fairchild from Class AAA Tacoma to take Haniger’s place on the roster.
A trip to the injured list seemed inevitable when Haniger hobbled off the field after singling to left field in the second inning of Friday night’s loss to the Marlins.
Haniger underwent an MRI on Saturday morning at a hospital in Miami and appeared in the clubhouse still wearing the walking boot he was given the night before. He changed and went into the trainers room for treatment.
“I do not have an update yet on Mitch Haniger’s results from his MRI,” manager Scott Servais said pregame. “We are waiting to get those back. He just got to the ballpark here a few minutes ago. We are waiting to have a doctor take a look at that and see where it takes him from there. He’s obviously very sore today.”
After the Mariners’ 3-1 loss to the Marlins Saturday night, when Haniger’s presence in the lineup was missed, Servais had an update.
“It’s a grade 2 high-ankle sprain,” Servais said. “He’s going to be out a little while. We’ll have to wait to see how he responds to treatments, get the swelling down, get the range of motion going back and see where it takes us.”
Typically a grade 2 high-ankle sprain takes anywhere from four to six weeks for recovery.
Haniger injured the ankle while fouling off a 1-2 fastball from Elieser Hernandez. He took a hard swing at the pitch where his right ankle twisted awkwardly and his back knee dropped to the ground.
“It felt like I fouled a ball off my foot,” he said.
After the initial discomfort and a few moments to gather himself, he limped back into the batter’s box, smacking a single to left on the next pitch. He knew something was wrong when he tried to run to first base.
Local journalism is essential.
Give directly to The Spokesman-Review's Northwest Passages community forums series -- which helps to offset the costs of several reporter and editor positions at the newspaper -- by using the easy options below. Gifts processed in this system are not tax deductible, but are predominately used to help meet the local financial requirements needed to receive national matching-grant funds.
Subscribe to the sports newsletter
Get the day’s top sports headlines and breaking news delivered to your inbox by subscribing here.