SEATTLE — Baseball can be a cruel game, and it can be cruel because it does not care about the past, and it can be cruel because it always seems to even out in the end.
That was the lesson from the Mariners’ 2-1 loss Thursday to the Twins, a defeat that snapped a five-game winning streak and dropped the Mariners below .500 (They haven’t been over .500 this season).
Robinson Cano, a man who had made only one error in 49 games this season, suddenly made two on one play just a half inning after being robbed of a run-scoring hit. And Mike Zunino, who won the game the night before with a walkoff homer, did exactly what he wanted to do and drove the ball up the middle — and still hit into a double play.
As the Mariners are fond of saying, that’s baseball.
“Luck was not on our side tonight,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said. “It happens some nights.”
With two outs and a runner on second, Twins first baseman Joe Mauer hit a slow grounder to Cano at second. It was the type of grounder Cano fields without thinking, and yet the ball bounced away from him for an error.
“Just a little hop, but I should make that play,” Cano said. “I’ve made that play before.”
He then picked it up and fired to third to try to get the runner there. Instead, the throw skipped away from Kyle Seager.
A run scored. The Twins led 2-0.
“You typically don’t see it out of Robbie,” Servais said. “He has great hands. One of the most sure-handed second basemen in the league … a very uncharacteristic play, but it happens once in a while.”
In the bottom of the fifth, Cano thought he had his redemption. The Mariners had already scored one run that inning on a Ben Gamel sacrifice fly.
With two outs and runners at first and third, Cano smoked a line drive to center. Twins center fielder Byron Buxton, one of the fastest players in the game, tracked the ball, jumped and made the catch before falling to the ground.
Cano thought he had a hit and an RBI.
“I crushed that ball,” he said.
That wasn’t the only bad break. Zunino, the hero the night before, stepped to the plate in the eighth inning with runners on first and second.
Ever since he was recalled from the minor leagues following his demotion, Zunino’s production has soared. One reason has been his ability to hit the ball back up the middle or to right field.
So Zunino stepped to the plate in the eighth inning, and he kept the same approach that has worked, and he drilled a line drive where he wanted to, right back up the middle.
Except the ball found the glove of Twins pitcher Taylor Rogers, who threw to second to double up Cano.
“That Zunino one was right into the pitcher’s glove,” Cano said. “In that situation, when you’re on second, a line drive to the middle you want to score. You want to take your chances. How many times do you see a pitcher make that catch? Maybe 1 out of 50 times. But I liked that we fought until the end.”
Mariners starter Christian Bergman allowed a two-out, fourth-inning home run that gave the Twins a 1-0 lead, which should have been his only run allowed. Instead, Cano’s two errors with two outs not only allowed a run but also likely cost Bergman a sixth inning because of his rising pitch count.
That, plus a little bad luck, was the difference.