Two tiny bobbles, one giant swing, another staggering loss.
After loading the bases in the ninth with a single and two sacrifice bunts mishandled by the Mariners, the Marlins’ stud hitter, Giancarlo Stanton, slaughtered a Yoervis Medina fastball for a walk-off grand slam and an 8-4 triumph Friday night in Miami.
Freakish as was the sixth loss in seven games, the Mariners have seen it before. On May 29, 2010, the Angels’ Kendrys Morales beat Seattle and reliever Brandon League with a walk-off grand slam. Stanton’s blow was also the Mariners’ third walk-off defeat in the season’s 16 games, and the 52nd since 2010, including four by Medina.
The loss came after the Mariners (7-9) drew even at four despite another lame outing from a starting pitcher, Chris Young. The end began when pinch-hitter Reed Johnson led off the ninth with a single against Medina, Seattle’s fifth pitcher.
Chris Yelich laid down a well-placed sacrifice bunt that went for a single when 1B Justin Smoak bobbled the ball. Marcell Ozuna attempted the same bunt toward third. Medina bare-handed the ball and threw to third for a force out. But the call was overturned when replays showed 3B Kyle Seager momentarily lost control of the transfer, even though he neither threw nor dropped the ball.
Despite another controversy over the new transfer rule, it didn’t figure in the outcome because the force would have been the first out and Stanton, one of the game’s most intimidating hitters, would have come up anyway.
He launched a big fly to deep left center, and the Marlins (7-10), last in the National League East, were winners over a team that can’t seem to finish.
“We tried to stay away from him all night because he’s the one guy in that lineup who can really hurt you,” Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon told reporters, referring to two intentional walks he ordered for the slugger. “We were in a bad spot. There was no place to go.”
Of the overturned out, McClendon put up no argument.
“It was the right call,” he said. “I think the ball hit a bad spot on his glove and I don’t think he really had it. It is what it is.”
Young took 73 pitches to get through three innings, giving up four runs on seven hits and three walks.
“He just didn’t have command,” McClendon said. “It was tough. I have to be conscious of not hurting him, coming off an injury. We pushed him last time (six innings), and he was probably a little sore.”
Down 2-0 after the first inning when Young allowed three hits and a wild pitch, the Mariners tied the game in second on a freak play. Dustin Ackley singled up the middle barely missing Michael Saunders, running after his single. Right fielder Stanton, running in, saw the ball hop over his glove and roll all the way to the wall. Both runners scored easily on the three-base error.
After Jarrod Saltalamacchia in the third hit a 473-foot home run into the third deck, the Mariners closed to 4-3 in the fifth when a Brad Miller ground out scored Abraham Almonte, who tripled.
In the seventh, the Mariners tied at four on a single by Corey Hart that brought in Almonte, who doubled and went to third on an error. The Mariners had a chance to take the lead with two on and two out, but Seager grounded out to second.
In his first major league game, rookie James Jones came on in the eighth as a pinch-hitter and beat out an infield hit . . . Hart had his first start at first base, giving Smoak his first day off this season . . . Brandon Maurer will join the team this weekend and will start Sunday’s trip finale as the double-emergency starter, replacing Blake Beavan (shoulder). Maurer had a back injury during spring training and has just 8.1 innings in four games at AAA Tacoma, so he’s not likely to go long . . . Since 2009, Felix Hernandez has 67 career starts in which he’s allowed one or fewer runs in seven or more innings. In 27, he’s had either a no-decision or a loss.