SEATTLE – The Texas Rangers, perhaps still adjusting to life back in the U.S. after their four-game sweep in Toronto, were routed by the Guardians.
After dropping two of three to the A’s in Houston, the Astros somehow lost to the Royals – a team with a worse record than Oakland.
The baseball gods were giving the Mariners a small opening to push back toward the top of the American League West.
All the Mariners needed to do was find a way to beat the Dodgers, one of the hottest teams in baseball, to move within a half-game of the division lead.
They did not.
An unexpected two-run homer by No. 9 hitter Miguel Rojas, coupled with the typical clutch hitting and production of the top of the Dodgers order, was too much for the Mariners to overcome in a disappointing 6-3 loss.
The Mariners fell to 81-66 and remained 1½ games back of the division leading Astros and a game behind the Rangers. They remained a half-game ahead of the Blue Jays for the third wild-card spot.
For all that they’ve accomplished to be at this point in the season, the Mariners return to the postseason is far from a given. And it was an opportunity wasted.
Of course, beating the Dodgers, who came into the game with a 37-19 record since the All-Star break, wasn’t going to be simple or expected.
The opening game of a weekend series with packed crowds featured a crowd of 43,823 – many of the wearing Dodger blue – and a pitching matchup of two of the top young right-handed pitchers in MLB with Bobby Miller and George Kirby starting for their respective team.
Making his first start since unexpected and somewhat uncharacteristic comments following a loss in Tampa, Florida, where he lamented being in the game and giving up a costly homer, Kirby came out amped up in front of the packed crowd.
With his pitches moving with more movement than usual, he walked Mookie Betts to start the game.
It’s rare when Kirby walks any hitter, but the first batter of the game? He came back to strike out Freddie Freeman and Will Smith. A two-out walk to Max Muncy proved harmless when Kirby got J.D. Martinez to ground out to second to end the inning.
Kirby worked the next three innings scoreless, throwing 10 pitches or fewer in each.
The Mariners even provided him a 1-0 lead in the fourth inning when Eugenio Suarez sat on a curveball from Miller, muscling it to left field for his 21st homer of the season.
But the lead disappeared with two outs in the fifth when Kirby fired a 96-mph pitch to Rojas above the strike zone. Rojas managed to stay on the pitch, hitting a line drive just over the wall in left field for a two-run homer. It left Kirby stunned in disbelief.
The lead ballooned to 4-1 in the sixth. Kirby hit Smith with a pitch, gave up a run-scoring triple to Muncy and RBI single to Martinez. He would finish the inning.
His final line: six innings pitched, four runs allowed on five hits with two walks and seven strikeouts.
The Mariners battled back to cut the lead to one run in the bottom of the sixth. Julio Rodriguez led off with a single and Cal Raleigh worked a walk. Teoscar Hernandez drove in a run with a single to left and another run scored when Suarez hit into a double play.
But Seattle’s bullpen couldn’t get the deficit to just one run. Matt Brash allowed an RBI single in the seventh and Trent Thornton gave up a run in the ninth.