It’s not the first time he’s made that lonely walk this season, and it won’t be the last if he continues as a closer.
Danny Farquhar, a bundle of hard-throwing, positive energy, trudged off the mound Monday night heading for the home dugout of Safeco Field. He didn’t run for cover, but it was clear he couldn’t get to his final destination soon enough.
Farquhar had just blown his fourth save of the season in 17 opportunities, giving up four runs (three earned) on two hits with two costly walks in the top of the ninth inning, turning a one-run Seattle lead into a 6-4 loss to the Houston Astros.
“It’s definitely going to be hard to sleep tonight,” Farquhar said. “But it’s the same thing as usual, whether you pitch good or you pitch bad, learn from your mistakes and move on. There’s nothing more you can do. If you dwell on it, you are just going to drive yourself nuts.”
There were no boos for Farquhar as he exited the game mainly because there were few fans at Safeco Field. With the hapless Astros – the worst team in baseball – in town, the Mariners weren’t going to draw many fans. But the announced crowd of 9,808 on a gorgeous September night was the smallest in Safeco history. The previous low of 9,818, set on April 29 against the Baltimore Orioles.
Like a tree falling in the forest, it still counts as a blown save even if no one was really there to see it.
Farquhar’s last blown save came on Aug. 14 at Tampa Bay. Since then he had been 8-for-8 in save situations.
But he did something he hadn’t done in those successful save situations. He did what cost Tom Wilhelmsen his job as closer earlier this season – he allowed free baserunners.
After striking out the first batter he faced, Farquhar walked Marc Krauss and Carlos Corporan back-to-back.
Jimmy Paredes yanked a 1-2 pitch into right field to score pinch-runner Jake Elmore to tie the game, 3-3.
It then appeared Farquhar had Jonathan Villar, the next hitter, struck out with a 1-2 curveball, but home plate Dan Iassogna called it a ball. People in the Mariners dugout complained to Iassogna.
“Looking back in the video room, everything was off the plate,” Farquhar said. “At the time, I thought, ‘Man, this guy is squeezing me,’ but those pitches were all off the plate.”
On the next pitch, Villar muscled a single up the middle to score two more runs and push the lead to 5-3. But Farquhar wasn’t looking for someone else to blame.
“The two walks got the inning going,” Farquhar said. “Without those walks, those two hits mean nothing. But putting those two guys on base, that was pretty much the game right there.
Mariners manager Eric Wedge had no choice but to take out his closer.
“Danny was just being a little too fine,” Wedge said. “He was picking a little bit. And just wasn’t as aggressive as he needed to be.”
It was uncharacteristic for Farquhar, who prides himself on being aggressive.
“Yeah, I was a little too fine with a one-run lead, and not wanting to leave anything over the middle of the plate and having them hit a homer to tie it,” Farquhar admitted. “But at the same time, I’d rather have them hit a homer off me or hit me around than walk people. That’s not my mentality. I went about things the wrong way today.”
Wedge called on Bobby LaFromboise to stop the bleeding. He couldn’t quite keep the game at 5-3, giving up a sacrifice fly to Trevor Crowe on a pop up in foul territory. Justin Smoak’s throw home to try and get Paredes hit Crowe who was watching the play. Umpires did not rule interference since Crowe wasn’t intentionally trying to get in the way. LaFromboise eventually got out of the inning, but the damage was done and the deficit too great.
Brad Miller hit a solo homer in the ninth inning off of Josh Fields. Still, there would be no comeback.
The ninth inning meltdown overshadowed a brilliant night for Abraham Almonte and the final start of the season for talented prospect Taijuan Walker.
Almonte had two of the Mariners four hits. His gave the Mariners a 1-0 lead, doubling in the first inning and later scoring on an error. In the seventh inning with Seattle trailing 2-1, Almonte blasted his first career homer - a two-run shot to right field off of Chia-Jen Lo - to give the Mariners a 3-2 lead.
“I feel very excited,” Almonte said. “For now, it’s one of the best things I’ve done.”
He’s done quite a bit since being called up. As Wedge said pre and postgame game, “he’s in the middle of things.”
“Another good ball game for him,” Wedge said. “Good players find themselves in the middle of it. We’ve only had small sample size with him. But he’s been in the middle of some good situations for us here fairly frequently.”
Walker tossed five innings, giving up two runs on five hits with a walk and eight strikeouts.
After giving up run in the second and one another in the third, Walker retired nine straight batters, striking out six.
“I got a little mad,” Walker said. “And that helped too. Giving up the runs, not putting the pitches where I wanted to, it irritated me, so I just locked in and tried to stay focused.”
Wedge liked that focus.
“The best thing about tonight was that he got better as the game wore on,” Wedge said. “He was up early. He righted himself in the third inning and was really, really good in the fourth and fifth. We’ve seen in three different outings, three different types of games for him and they were all good.”