Brother…some way this was to celebrate Edgar Martinez’s career.
The Mariners got six strong innings Saturday night from a starting pitcher, prodigal right-hander Erasmo Ramirez, but chose not to push their luck. So they pulled him with a two-run lead.
And then the bullpen, so strong over the last few months, imploded over the next two innings. First Casey Lawrence gave up two runs. Then Tony Zych gave up three more.
The result: The Mariners suffered yet another late-game meltdown in a depressing 6-3 loss to the Los Angeles Angels in front of a sellout crowd of 45,388 at Safeco Field.
Many in that crowd came to witness the pregame ceremony in which the Mariners retired Martinez’s No. 11 in a precise and well-coordinated program that offered a stark contrast to the club’s ongoing inability to hold down the Angels.
Los Angeles scored three runs in the ninth inning Thursday against closer Edwin Diaz in a 6-3 victory in the series opener and then erased a four-run deficit Friday in a 6-5 victory.
"The story of our season is we have been up and down," manager Scott Servais said. "We played great on (a recent 6-3) road trip. Coming back home, our bullpen, which has been so good a majority of the year, we’ve stubbed our toe.
"The last couple of nights, with Eddie (Diaz) down, changes how we look at (using) the bullpen. This is where we’re at. We’ve got to figure out how to win games. We’ve got to figure out how to finish games."
Here’s the updated math: The Angels, at 60-58, hold sole possession of the American League’s final wild-card berth. Minnesota is one-half game back. The Mariners, Tampa Bay and Kansas City are all one game back.
Saturday’s loss stings a little more because Ramirez pitched well in limiting the Angels to one unearned run over six innings. But he had thrown 82 pitches, which was the most since June 21, and he confirmed he was beginning to miss location.
"I was feeling good," he said, "but maybe my arm was a little down."
Whatever. The game turned around after Ramirez departed.
Lawrence gave up a one-out single to C.J. Cron in the seventh before Luis Valbuena tied the game with a two-run homer.
The Mariners had a chance to answer later in the inning when Yonder Alonso singled, and Robinson Cano followed with a drive into the right-center gap. Third-base coach Manny Acta opted to try to score Alonso.
The play at the plate wasn’t close.
Right fielder Kole Calhoun made a strong throw to shortstop Andrelton Simmons, who threw a dart to the plate for the out.
That meant Zych inherited a tie game in the eighth, and he just didn’t have it. He opened then inning with two walks before surrendering a two-run double to Albert Pujols. The Angels added another run before the inning ended.
"Can’t let free guys on base in those situations," Zych said. "Pujols got a big hit there, but you walk two guys that hurts the worst."
Three takeaways from Saturday’s loss:
***Running into outs: It wasn’t just Alonso getting thrown out at the plate. The Mariners ran into two outs in the sixth inning when two of their fastest players, Jarrod Dyson and Leonys Martin, were thrown out in attempting to steal second.
Angels catcher Martin Maldonado made strong throws both times, particularly in nailing Dyson. Simmons (who seems to do everything well defensively) made a great snap tag to get Martin.
***Ramirez delivers: The Mariners wasted their best outing by a starter since James Paxton pitched six scoreless innings July 30 in a 9-1 victory over the New York Mets.
Ramirez gave up one tainted run in six innings in what was easily his best start in three outings since returning to the Mariners from Tampa Bay in a July 28 trade for veteran reliever Steve Cishek.
"Every time I’m feeling stronger," Ramirez said. "I was able to keep my speed into the sixth. That gives me more confidence. Being able to throw strikes in the sixth and have the same speed is something you’re looking for all of the time."
***Defensive botch: Alonso cost the Mariners a run in the fifth inning with an unnecessary flip of the ball from his glove to Ramirez on Kaleb Cowart’s two-out grounder with a runner on third,
Ramirez failed to make a catch he probably should have made, but Alonso had plenty of time to take the ball from his glove and make a more-catchable throw. The runner scored from third.
"It was a tough play," Alonso said, "because it hit the lip (of the grass) and it got down on me. I knew the runner was a pretty decent runner. Ramirez did a great job. It was just my fault."
Alonso was assessed an error. It was the only run that Ramirez allowed.
Bob Dutton: @TNT_Mariners