Third baseman Kyle Seager blew one easy pickup, and scuffed a more difficult one. Catcher Mike Zunino made a throw to second that burned worms on its way to center field. First baseman Justin Smoak handled a slow chopper as if it were made of cactus. Cole Gillespie, a ninth-inning outfield defensive replacement no less, made a fielding error and a throwing error on the same play.
Even second baseman Robinson Cano, attempting to fielding a hard shot behind the bag, clanked on a play that, for 24 million in 2014 dollars, a fan expects to see made.
Many of the mothers feted in the Sunday crowd of 30,447 at Safeco Field had seen worse from their children. But rarely all in three hours. Their collective cringe at the Mariners’ play could have been measured in megatons.
The glower coming from manager Lloyd McClendon could have been measured in degrees Kelvin.
“We,” he said, “kicked ourselves in the ass today.”
Asked the standard but unanswerable question of what the hell was going on, McClendon fairly sizzled.
“I don’t make excuses for players,” he said. “You got a question about errors, go talk to them.”
Most of them weren’t too available in the clubhouse. But their play spoke volumes, which explained how they left themselves vulnerable to being beaten by a 5-foot-8 scrubbeenie named Johnny Giavotella.
Packing a .182 average into the game with three career major league homers scattered over four seasons with Kansas City, the runtiest Royal took reliever Danny Farquhar deep in the seventh inning for a three-run homer that made for a 9-7 triumph as well as an impressive run toward the top of the franchise’s Mortification Table.
A tool little used by sabermetricians, the equation takes leads recovered from, divides by leads blown and multiplies by unforced errors to reach an Aggravation Factor, which is doubled for special-event days.
The Mariners in their 38 years have assembled a robust competition for the top of the table. Scientists figure to have results available early this week.
The Mariners were down 4-0 after a grand slam homer in the second, recovered partly through three homers — two by the suddenly Griffey-esque Dustin Ackley — to take a 7-5 lead, then saw Farquhar, on four days rest, get deked by a dubious strike zone and serve up a casaba that little Johnny jacked into the bullpen.
The killer was that in their previous four games, the Mariners had scored only five runs, then had six through four innings, yet still managed to goober away the game.
Mariners fans might like to carp on the strike zone offered by home plate Marcus Pattillo, who seemed determined to take strike three away from Farquhar. But the pitcher knew better than to dig through Sunday’s garbage looking for an excuse.
“It’s tough and it happens, but you have to move on,” he said.“You can’t let the inning build on that. And I didn’t execute pitches like I wanted to.”
Besides, he knew that the game-deciding pitch against Giavotella, who had hit against Farquhar when both were in college in Louisiana, was a prime-time fastball that deserved squashing.
“I kind of knew he was an ambusher,” Farquhar said. “I should have been more locked in and executed the first pitch better.”
McClendon also chose to avoid arguing about strike zones.
“I’m not going to argue that type of stuff,” he said. Listen. We didn’t play a very good game.”
It started in the second inning when Seager couldn’t pick up a sharp grounder from Danny Valencia, which was generously scored as a hit. Alex Gordon blooped a single into left field in front of Ackley, then Seager butchered a routine grounder from Lorenzo Cain to load the bases with no outs.
Giavotella struck out, but starting pitcher Roenis Elias, coming off three strong outings in which he gave up no more than three runs in any game, gave up four on the next pitch. No. 8 hitter Alcides Escobar hit a grand slam for the team with the fewest homers in the majors this season (now 15, six behind the Mets).
Appalling as was that development, the Mariners rallied in the third with a solo homer by Ackley followed by a two-run double from the extremely light-hitting Brad Miller. In the fourth, after a two-run homer by Seager, Ackley did it again — his third homer in three at-bats, counting the last one from Saturday’s win 3-1 win.
The Mariners gave back an unearned run in the fourth when Smoak failed to pick up a run-scoring dribbler from leadoff hitter Nori Aoki, the run abetted earlier by Zunino’s throwing error. But the Mariners grew the lead to 7-5 in the fifth when Corey Hart singled home rookie James Jones, the new leadoff hitter, who doubled.
Then came the calamitous seventh, when Farquhar gave up a double, two walks and a sacrifice fly before little Johnny G nearly brought down the Safeco roof with his big gun.
In the bigger picture, the loss merely split the series with the Royals (18-19) while the Mariners (19-18) have still won 12 of their past 17. But the fact was that the Mariners had scored only five runs in their previous four games, and Sunday had six by the fourth inning. And they still lost.
The Mariners knew in spring training they had sacrificed defense in order to build a better offense. But they didn’t know that blunders would come by the motherlode.
The errors were the most since the Mariners committed six Sept. 5, 2011 against the Angels . . .The homers by Ackley and Seager in the fourth were the third time this season the Mariners have gone back to back . . . In his last 11 games, Ackley has an OPS of 1.105 . . . OF Michael Saunders was kept out of the starting lineup but was available to pinch hit in the eighth, when he struck out to end the inning with a runner on. He hyperextended his knee attempting a running catch Saturday night. “I just hit a loose patch and my cleats kind of came up from underneath me and I lost my stability,” he told mlb.com. “I knew when I got up I could feel my knee a little bit . . . luckily there’s no sign of any ligament damage or anything like that.” . . . Before the game, Taijuan Walker threw 25 pitches in his first bullpen session at three-quarters strength. His partner in rehab, James Paxton, threw 40 off the same mound and also made it through without setbacks