CLEVELAND – It came down to Steve Delabar in the eighth inning and Brandon League in the 11th – and the Seattle Mariners watched both fail.
After the Cleveland Indians overcame a 4-1 deficit in the eighth inning, then the Mariners’ 5-4 lead in the 11th to beat League and Seattle, 6-5, it came down to tough talk in the clubhouse.
“We gave that game away,” manager Eric Wedge said of Seattle’s fifth loss in six games this trip. “Walks killed us twice. It’s not like they hit us around – we put them on base to be driven in.”
Then Wedge turned to his offense.
“We’ve got to do better with runners in scoring position,” Wedge said. “We had opportunities today, but the middle of our lineup has to do more.”
A member of the Japanese media asked Wedge about Ichiro, who had a rare 0-for-6 performance. He is batting .278 after going 6-for-31 on this trip.
“Icihro is one of the few veterans we have, he knows how to hit. But he’s got to hit better with men in scoring position,” Wedge said.
This was clearly the toughest loss of a trip that has seen the Mariners lose two of three in New York, both games in Boston and now both games in Cleveland.
This time, the Mariners manufactured runs early – putting one up without a hit in both the third and fifth innings – and got a dominant performance from starting pitcher Hector Noesi.
By the eighth inning, the Mariners had a 4-1 lead and needed six outs for a win.
The eighth inning usually belongs to Tom Wilhelmsen, who has struggled recently. So Wedge turned to Delabar.
Delabar walked the first man he faced, got two quick outs, then walked ex-Mariners first baseman Casey Kotchman, who was batting .193. That let Cleveland bring the potential tying run to the plate …
… in Jose Lopez.
The former Mariners infielder had endured a terrible game, making an error at third base, tapping to the mound with the bases loaded and going 0-for-3 to drop his average to .212.
Delabar left a fastball over the inner half of the plate, and Lopez turned on it, made it his second home run this season and tied the game.
“Guys have to learn how to put these games away, offensively and from the mound,” Wedge said. “You can’t walk batters. It gives the other team hope.”
Shortstop Brendan Ryan, who walked twice and had two hits, said watching the first-place Indians the past two games proved to him they were a disciplined team at the plate.
“You could see they had a great approach both days. They had a solid game plan and stuck with it,” Ryan said. “They took breaking pitches that were close, they got into hitter’s counts and took advantage of that.
“Our issue is not stepping on the other team’s neck when we’re ahead. It’s not good enough to lead by a run, to go up by two. You’ve got to go up five runs and maintain that.
“That’s what the good teams do. They don’t let you feel like you have a chance of coming back.”
In the 11th inning, the Mariners came back, and it started with a single by Ryan. Dustin Ackley, who extended his hitting streak to 13 games, hit into a fielder’s choice.
Michael Saunders, hitless in five at-bats, doubled off the left-field wall to score Ackley from first base and give Seattle a 5-4 lead.
Brandon League time.
“I felt fine warming up in the bullpen, I got out on the mound and threw four straight balls to Jose Lopez, all of them high,” League said. “I made a slight adjustment, struck out (Shin-Soo) Choo, then lost it again.
“I was handing out bases on balls. I loaded the bases with walks …”
Asdrubal Cabrera, another former Mariners player, singled Lopez home for the tie. Finally, the Indians loaded ’em up with one out for Carlos Santana.
Santana singled home Cleveland’s sixth run, and the Mariners headed for Colorado to open the interleague portion of their 2012 email@example.com blog.thenewstribune.com/mariners @LarryLarue