Yoervis Medina has been a pleasant surprise for the Seattle Mariners this season.
An afterthought in spring training, the reliever began the season at Triple-A Tacoma. But because of injuries and attrition in Seattle’s bullpen, Medina not only found himself pitching for the Mariners in April, but he pitched meaningful innings as the season wore on.
On Sunday, however, the 25-year-old rookie’s propensity for allowing baserunners turned into trouble in Seattle’s 4-1 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays at Safeco Field.
Brought on to protect a 1-0 lead in the eighth, Medina hit
Evan Longoria with his first pitch. His next five pitches resulted in a walk to Luke Scott.
Things only got worse with James Loney’s tying double to right.
Mariners manager Eric Wedge brought in Oliver Perez to try to limit the damage. But pinch-hitter Sean Rodriguez singled up the middle, and two more runs scored. All three runs were charged to Medina (4-5).
Medina has made 57 appearances this season, throwing 61 innings. While he has struck out 65 batters, he has walked 36 and hit three with pitches. He has issued a walk or hit a batter in 29 appearances. Oftentimes, it’s the first hitter he faces.
“He’s had some issues with that first hitter,” Wedge said.
That many free baserunners can only lead to trouble. But with Carter Capps unavailable Sunday and Wedge not trusting Tom Wilhelmsen to pitch in those situations right now, he turned to Medina.
“He’s done a great job for us,” Wedge said. “He’s been a savior for us in the back end of our bullpen. We’ve had so many young kids that we’ve had to bring in and use in more pivotal roles than is probably fair to them.”
Down 3-1, the Mariners tried to answer in the bottom of the eighth. Abraham Almonte and Kendrys Morales drew walks from reliever Joel Peralta, but the Mariners didn’t capitalize. Peralta struck out Franklin Gutierrez and pinch-hitter Raul Ibañez to end the inning.
Hector Noesi gave up a run in the top of the ninth to make it 4-1, and Rays closer Fernando Rodney pitched a 1-2-3 bottom half.
Trying for its third three-game sweep of the season, Seattle mustered little run support for starter Erasmo Ramirez.
Tampa Bay starter Matt Moore was solid, pitching 6 innings, giving up one run on five hits with three walks and three strikeouts. It was the 13th time this season Moore has allowed one run or fewer.
“He was good,” Wedge said. “He’s a good pitcher. He has a great arm. He throws the ball downhill with two or three-plus pitches. He was tough on us today.”
Moore’s only major mistake came in the second inning when he left a fastball out over the plate that Morales yanked into the left-field stands for his 20th homer of the season.
“I was just trying to make contact and let the speed of the pitch work for me,” Morales said through Mariners translator Ryan Schmitz.
In his past six games, Morales has hit .429 (9-for-21) with a double, three homers and six RBI.
“I wasn’t seeing the ball as well earlier,” Morales said. “I’ve corrected that. I’ve worked hard in the batting cage. My stance was a little too open, and I’ve changed that.”
After Morales’ homer, the Mariners got just three more hits against Moore and fell to 20-29 against left-handed starters this season.
“He kind of short-arms it, and his fastball gets on you,” Mariners first baseman Justin Smoak said.
Ramirez pitched six shutout innings, giving up just four hits while striking out five batters. The only negative was four walks.
“That was my favorite outing,” Ramirez said. “Nobody scored runs. I feel great. Even though I walked four, I was throwing to contact and (didn’t) let the ball get over the plate.”
Ramirez got into a jam in the seventh, walking Kelly Johnson and giving up a single to Jose Lobaton.
Wedge called on left-hander Charlie Furbush, who walked pinch-hitter Wil Myers but then got pinch-hitter Delmon Young to hit a soft comebacker to him. Furbush tossed the ball to home for the force, and catcher Henry Blanco fired to first to get Young. Ben Zobrist then flied out.
Tampa Bay’s Jake McGee (4-3), who got the final two outs of the seventh, earned the win.Ryan Divish: 253-597-8483 firstname.lastname@example.org blog.thenewstribune.com/mariners @RyanDivish