James Paxton returns, but Mariners drop series finale to Rockies, 3-2

The Seattle Times

SEATTLE It was expected to be a busy day for the Mariners' resurgent offense. Facing a starting pitcher that came into the game with a 6.25 earned run average and issues against left-handed hitters, Seattle should have had no trouble reaching the almost five runs it had been averaging per game since the All-Star break.

Instead, the Mariners mustered just two runs and the faint hopes of a miracle run to close the season dimmed a little more on Sunday in a 3-2 loss to the Colorado Rockies at Safeco Field.

Perhaps if the Rockies had a different left fielder, the outcome may have been different. The score certainly would have been different without the speed and incredible play by Colorado's Brandon Barnes.

Trailing 3-2 with one out in the eighth inning and Ketel Marte on first base, Kyle Seager lashed a 98-mph fastball from Jairo Diaz toward the left field corner.

It seemed like a sure hit to everyone but Barnes.

"Diaz throws hard, so I figured I'd shade a little bit to the foul line," Barnes said. "I wanted to give it everything I had because it was borderline fair-foul. When you get that close to diving head-first into the wall, it's never fun, but I knew I had a little bit of room, so I went for it."

As the tailing fly ball was nearing the ground, Barnes at full sprint made a full-extension dive for it. He caught the ball and slammed face first into the dirt of the warning track.

"Even when he started to dive, I still didn't think he was getting to it," Seager said.

Barnes didn't lie there to celebrate the catch or check the numerous places he hurt. He jumped to his feet and fired a perfect throw to shortstop Christian Adames, who wheeled and fired to first base.

"Honestly off the bat, I didn't think there was any chance he was getting to it," Seager said. "I thought it was going to be a double for sure and with the way Marte runs, that ties the game."

It didn't. It ended the inning.

Marte was already around second base when Barnes made the catch, so he had to backtrack and touch second and then sprint for first. Even with his superior speed, he wasn't able to make it back in time. First baseman Justin Morneau fielded the long one-hopper just before Marte slid back into first for the double play.

"That's the game right there," Rockies manager Walt Weiss said.

Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon wasn't angry at Marte.

"Marte played it absolutely right," McClendon said. "I would say the guy made one of the top 10 plays of the year from where he came to where he had to get to and to get up and throw a strike. I don't fault Marte at all because if he misses that ball, (Marte) scores and Kyle is probably on third."

Instead, the Mariners went into the ninth inning down a run and facing Rockies closer John Axford with the heart of their order coming to the plate. Axford struck out Nelson Cruz, then nearly got his head taken off on a line drive back up the middle off the bat of Robinson Cano. MLB statcast measured the ball coming off Cano's bat at 110 mph.

"That was scary," Cano said. "I never want to hit anyone like that."

With the tying run (pinch runner Shawn O'Malley) on first, Axford struck out Mark Trumbo and got Seth Smith to fly out to end the game.

"We really didn't have many opportunities," McClendon said. "I think we left four guys on. I thought we matched up well against their starting pitcher. We just couldn't get anything going."

Rockies starter Kyle Kendrick came into the game with a 6.75 ERA. But his past struggles didn't translate into runs on Sunday. The two runs Seattle did get off of him were a bit of a gift on a misread line drive. Down 3-0, the Mariners loaded the bases in fourth inning with two outs. Smith hit a liner to center field that Charlie Blackmon hesitated on before having it drop in front of him.

"It looked like it might have knuckled and lost some steam there at the end," Smith said.

The Rockies scored all three of their runs off of starter James Paxton, who was making his first start since May 28. Paxton gave up a run in the third inning on a sac fly and was charged with two more (one earned) in the fourth inning on a throwing error by Kyle Seager. With the bases loaded, Seager fielded the soft groundball off the bat of Dustin Garneau. He fired to home on the run and throw was wide of the plate and out of the reach of catcher Steve Baron. Two runs scored on the play.

"If I could do it over again, I would have one-handed it instead of two," Seager said. "I would have fielded it with my glove and taken an extra step and thrown home. You don't have your body into it, you don't have your shoulders squared. The ball just kind of goes."

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