Given the chance to take a series from the New York Yankees, the Seattle Mariners held a lead for each of the first seven innings that no one outside their dugout thought they could hold.
Two first-inning runs – and two first-inning hits – were all the Mariners had as the innings piled up.
The Mariners seemed as if they might never hit or score again. And that Yankees lineup?
A crowd of 36,071 at Safeco Field seemed to expect what happened in the eighth inning, when New York put together four runs on four hits en route to a 5-2 victory.
“They played tough defense, had good pitching, and we all assumed we’d break through and score again after the first inning,” Mike Carp said. “As it turned out, we didn’t.”
After Hisashi Iwakuma gave up Derek Jeter’s eighth home run of the season in the first inning, the Mariners came right back against 10-game winner Ivan Nova.
Back-to-back one-out singles by Michael Saunders and Jesus Montero turned into runs because Nova walked the next two batters – including Kyle Seager with the bases loaded – followed by an RBI fielder’s choice for Carp.
Mariners 2, Yankees 1.
As scores go, that works in an inning. In the American League, it’s not usually enough to win.
“It was asking a lot to hold a one-run lead the entire game against a veteran team like that,” manager Eric Wedge said. “To win that game, we had to tack on another run, put together another inning. We didn’t.”
The Mariners’ Safeco Field issues continued, and the only other hit Seattle managed in the game came with two outs in the ninth inning, when Casper Wells singled to the opposite field.
Iwakuma pitched well in his fourth start, using a lot of pit`ches (95) in five innings but handing off a 2-1 lead.
“He was deliberate and threw a lot of pitches, but he gave us every opportunity to win,” Wedge said. “He did a nice job against a very good offensive team.”
Still, when Iwakuma left, the Mariners needed 12 outs from their bullpen without allowing New York a run.
They came close.
Oliver Perez got three in a 1-2-3 sixth inning. Josh Kinney worked a 1-2-3 seventh inning. Normally, Wedge would have opened the eighth inning with Brandon League on the mound. That wasn’t an option.
“Tom Wilhelmsen wasn’t available today, so League was our closer,” Wedge said. “We had him for the ninth inning.”
Kinney started the eighth inning by hitting Jeter in the hip – the second time Jeter had been hit and the fourth Yankees batter to wear a pitch in the past two games.
Wedge went to rookie left-hander Lucas Luetge. He got one out but allowed two hits that loaded the bases.
Wedge brought in Shawn Kelley to get out of the bases-loaded, one-out jam with the one-run lead intact.
Pinch-hitter Jayson Nix worked the count full with Kelley.
“I’d thrown him a bunch of sliders so he’d seen them, but with the bases loaded, I wasn’t going to bounce a ball and walk in the tying run,” Kelley said. “I’m a slider pitcher, that’s my out pitch, so I went with it.”
Nix hit it to the fence in left-center field and three runs scored. One out later, Russell Martin singled Nix home.
“We had the chance to win this game and win this series, and we fell short – and part of that is on me,” Kelley said.
And perhaps as large a part was on the Seattle offense.
Nova didn’t have his command, and though he allowed only two hits in five-plus innings, he walked six Mariners.
He was in trouble twice, and limited the damage both times.
After Seattle scored twice in the first inning, it had runners at first and second base with one out. Nova got Carp to ground into a fielder’s choice, then got Casper Wells to ground out.
In the sixth inning, Nova walked the first two batters he faced – John Jaso and Seager – and was pulled for Clay Rapada. Carp ground sharply into a double play and Wells struck out.
After that, the Mariners didn’t get a baserunner until they were three runs down and had two outs in the ninth.
“They pitched us well,” said Seager, who picked up his team-leading 60th RBI. “They just didn’t make mistakes in the hitting zone.”
At home, some question whether the Mariners even have one. In losing the series, the Mariners had leads in the two games they lost.
One was 1-0 in Game 1, and they lost, 4-1. The other was 2-1, and they lost, 5-2. That kind of offense didn’t beat the Yankees, and it likely won’t be enough to beat Kansas City when the Royals open a four-game set firstname.lastname@example.org blog.thenewstribune.com/mariners @LarryLaRue