Though the Yankees' recent offensive struggles once again dominated the flow of the game, the real turning point of the Yanks' 3-2 loss to the Mariners on Saturday came as the result of a fluky defensive play gone a little bit awry.
With the game tied at 1 and two outs in the fifth inning and Ketel Marte standing on first base, former Yankee Robinson Cano walked to the plate for the Mariners. CC Sabathia delivered Cano an 88-mph fastball. Marte got a good jump and darted toward second. Cano recognized the fastball and turned on it, sending it up the middle. As the ball trickled through toward center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury, Marte showed no signs of slowing down and rounded third. Ellsbury double clutched, so his throw came in late. First baseman Mark Teixeira had no choice but to cut it off and throw home late. Marte scored, giving the M's their first lead of the game, a lead which they did not relinquish.
Yankees catcher Austin Romine watched the entire play develop. What he saw was equal parts random and surprising.
"I saw the guy running hard," Romine said. "You've got a guy stealing second and a base hit up the middle. You don't expect anything. The play was coming home. It was going to be close. Either way, I couldn't tell you if he was going to be safe or out. It's just a weird play altogether."
Romine might not be able to tell you if Marte would've been out, but Ellsbury can.
The Gold Glove-winning outfielder has no doubt his throw would've gotten Marte. It had the distance. It was accurate. It just wasn't on time.
As for why the ball was late, Ellsbury was blunt.
"I double clutched. I thought it was close. I thought we had a chance at it when I released it. If I don't double clutch, I think we have a chance at it," Ellsbury said. "You just mis-grip the ball. You just have to re-gather."
Manager Joe Girardi, however, saw the play differently.
"[Jacoby] came up and looked at the runner, instead of looking at the infield," he said. "And that little pause cost us that run."
It was a weird play in a weird inning that potentially cost the Yankees a game. But, in a way, it was impressive to watch -- at least from Sabathia's worldview.
"That's the first time I've given up a single and the guy scored from first," the 16-year veteran said. "Like I said earlier, there's a first time for everything."
Nick Suss is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.