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August 19, 2013 at 11:02 PM

Wasted opportunities, baserunning blunder cost Mariners in defeat

The A's rush out to meet Brandon Moss after his walkoff homer in the ninth handed the Mariners a 2-1 loss at the Coliseum.

The A’s rush out to meet Brandon Moss after his walkoff homer in the ninth handed the Mariners a 2-1 loss at the Coliseum.

Kendrys Morales hasn’t been the goat very often this season. But he was wearing some horns after this one, gunned down at third by one of the best arms in the game in Josh Reddick when he tried to go first-to-third on a single by Justin Smoak.

In case you were wondering, Morales is not one of the game’s best runners. And if he’s going to challenge Reddick, you’d think he would slide into third. Instead, he went in standing up — despite third base coach Daren Brown yelling “Get down! Get down! Get down!” — and was tagged out several feet from the bag.

That was one of two squandered opportunities late by Seattle in a 2-1, walkoff loss to the Oakland Athletics. The game officially ended on a Brandon Moss homer off Carter Capps. But the reality is, the Mariners helped lose it in the eighth and ninth before Capps even took the mound.

There’s a reason the Mariners lead the majors with 10 walkoff losses and it doesn’t all have to do with Tom Wilhelmsen and the bullpen blowing things late. To win games, you have to score runs before the ninth inning most of the time and the Mariners often don’t do it enough. It’s a big reason why they sit 10 games under .500 and for all all the talk of them “learning how to win” why they don’t actually emerge victorious all that often in these types of contests.

“He had a (mental) lockup there,” interim manager Robby Thompson said of Morales. “Obviously he should have been sliding. I think he assumed that maybe Reddick was going to come up and throw the ball to second base. A mistake on his part. Once again a little baserunning blunder, stuff we can’t afford to let happen.

Interestingly enough, Morales had just tied the game 1-1 by doing everything right as a hitter. He worked the count to 2-0 on Jarrod Parker, then drilled a ball to the right field corner for a single that brought home Nick Franklin.

Again, though, he only made it to first base when most other hitters would easily have legged out a double. Something to consider going forward as this team’s overall lack of basepath speed continues to haunt.

But on the ensuing single to right by Smoak, again, there’s no real excuse.

That’s one guy you don’t want to challenge, especially if you’re kind of a below average runner. He’s going to try to get you.
“He just locked up at a bad time,” Thompson said. “He knows better than that. He knows he made a mistake.”
We got bullpen coach Jamie Navarro to serve as an interpreter and asked Morales what he was thinking. He said he was thinking third base all the way and slowed down — dramatically — when he looked over his shoulder to see what Reddick was doing.
That turned out to be a huge mistake because it cut Morales’s already dubious speed down by half.
Morales said he never saw Brown signal him to slide and was surprised the ball got there ahead of him.
“I didn’t realize it,” he said. “I didn’t know he was going to have a chance to throw to third. I was surprised about it. My main thing was thinking just to get to third.”
And so, that’s how teams keep losing walkoff games. By leaving themseles in a position to get walked-off on.
The Morales play wasn’t even the biggest missed chance tonight. The Mariners had a runner on third with nobody out in the eighth and also couldn’t score.
That was huge. By the time Capps came on to work the ninth, you knew anything could happen. And as is usually the case, it didn’t work out well for the Mariners.

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