ANAHEIM, Calif. — Perhaps the walk-off misery has taken a break for the Seattle Mariners.
Once again it looked as though the Mariners would be trudging off the field dejected while the opposing team celebrated, just like in Cleveland and Minnesota.
But a funny thing happened – it didn’t happen.
Instead, the Mariners found a way to win a game that looked almost certain to be slipping away from them like so many before.
Kyle Seager came up with a two-out double and Kendrys Morales scored him moments later with a single off the glove leaping shortstop Erick Aybar in the top of the 10th inning to lead the Mariners to a 3-2 win over the Los Angeles Angels on Tuesday night at Angel Stadium.
Morales’ late-inning heroics were only part of getting the win. Seattle (32-40) still needed to
navigate its way through the bottom of the 10th.
With Tom Wilhelmsen on sabbatical from closing duties, Oliver Perez having already pitched earlier and Carter Capps struggling, the onus fell on hard-throwing rookie Yoervis Medina.
An afterthought for much of spring training, Medina came through, working a 1-2-3 inning, retiring Albert Pujols, Mark Trumbo and Howie Kendrick to pick up his first career big league save.
Of course, all the drama wouldn’t have been needed if the Mariners could have held the 2-1 lead given to them by starter Jeremy Bonderman after six solid innings. Bonderman allowed one run – a solo homer to Trumbo – in his third consecutive quality start (meaning at least six innings pitched, and allowing no more than three earned runs).
But the bullpen couldn’t hold it as Wilhelmsen’s struggles continued.
The last time Wilhelmsen came in to protect a lead was in Bonderman’s previous start in Safeco Field against Houston on June 12. He was called on to close out a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the ninth and gave up five runs. He lost his closer job after that.
This time he entered in the eighth inning to protect a 2-1 lead. Different inning, same bad result. Wilhelmsen left a 97 mph fastball up on the inside half of the plate and Pujols deposited it into the left-field stands for a solo homer – his 12th homer of the year – and tying the game at 2.
Wilhelmsen did manage to keep the game tied, retiring the next three batters.
Mariners manager Eric Wedge sent Wilhelmsen back out for the ninth. He gave up a leadoff single to Aybar, then walked Chris Iannetta. But Wilhelmsen showed a little moxie, striking out Peter Bourjos after he failed to get down two bunt attempts and getting Mike Trout to fly out to center field.
Wedge went to left-hander Charlie Furbush to face Josh Hamilton in a left vs. left situation. Furbush continued Hamilton’s night of misery, striking him out. Hamilton went 0-for-5, hitting into three double plays and striking out twice.
The Mariners continued to be far from offensive juggernauts. They managed just eight hits.
Seattle grabbed a 2-0 lead in the second in somewhat unlikely fashion. Well, the first part wasn’t a surprise.
Raul Ibañez crushed a solo home run to right field off Joe Blanton to lead off the inning. It was Ibanez’s team-leading 14th home run of the season.
But the next run was a little unexpected.
Justin Smoak, fresh off a stint on the disabled list where he missed 20 days and 18 games, ripped the first pitch he saw from Blanton over the wall in right field for his fourth homer of the season.
Smoak’s homer was a line drive that barely cleared the wall, and it was close enough that Angels manager Mike Scioscia asked home plate umpire John Hirschbeck to review the play. The umpires met for about five minutes and it was ruled a home run.
But that little burst was all the offense the Mariners would muster against Blanton, who came into the game with a 5.87 earned-run average.
Blanton, who’s tortoise-like pace is reminiscent of Miguel Batista, didn’t allow another run and just five runners reached over the next 52/3 innings. It helped that the Mariners for some reason couldn’t stop striking out against Blanton. Seattle hitters whiffed 11 times against Blanton in the game.
That puts Blanton on a list of nine starting pitchers to strike out 10 or more Mariners hitters this season. The list includes Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer, CC Sabathia, Yu Darvish and Derek Holland, but also the likes of Blanton and Eric Stults.Ryan Divish: 253-597-8483 firstname.lastname@example.org blog.thenewstribune.com/mariners @RyanDivish