The escalating dumpster fire the Mariners call a bullpen threw away another possible victory Saturday night in an appalling 6-3 loss to the Chicago White Sox in 10 innings at Safeco Field.
First, Carson Smith couldn’t hold a two-run lead in the ninth inning. That snatched a victory away from Vidal Nuno, who deserved far better.
Then Danny Farquhar faced four batters in the 10th and failed to retire any of them. He issued four-pitch walks to three of them, although one was intentional, but the third one forced in the go-ahead run.
The meltdown continued after Edgar Olmos replaced Farquhar. The White Sox scored on a passed ball and reloaded the bases on an error by second baseman Robinson Cano, which led to another run.
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Mercy, what a mess.
What came afterward was no surprise.
The Mariners designated former closer Fernando Rodney for assignment and optioned Farquhar to Triple-A Tacoma.
Coming up are lefty Roenis Elias, who will pitch initially out of the bullpen, and right-hander Logan Kensing. Both had been pitching at Tacoma.
“The fact is we’re just not getting it done,” manager Lloyd McClendon said. “I think that’s our 18th blown save and our 22nd loss in the opponent’s last at-bat. That takes a toll on a team.”
Much of the bullpen’s problems funneled to Rodney, who compiled a 5.68 ERA in 54 games after leading the majors a year ago in saves.
“Not surprised at all,” he said. “You know when you’re not doing your job, something is coming.”
Smith inherited a 3-1 lead to start the ninth but started the inning by putting the first two batters on base: Avisail Garcia singled up the middle, and pinch-hitter J.B. Shuck walked.
“I feel like every walk I’ve given up has led to a run,” Smith said. “At that point in the inning, that’s when it started going down hill.”
Down a hill and off a cliff.
When Alexei Ramirez punched an RBI single into center, the White Sox had the tying and go-ahead runs on base with no outs. Carlos Sanchez’s sacrifice bunt moved the runners to second and third.
Pinch-hitter Adam LaRoche grounder to first resulted in the second out but scored the tying run and snatched a victory away from Nuno, who has now gone 37 appearances and 19 starts since his last victory.
On to the 10th.
Farquhar (0-4) began the inning with a four-pitch walk to Tyler Saladino.
Jose Abreu then drove a double into the right-center gap that moved Saladino to third and prompted an intentional walk to Melky Cabrera that loaded the bases with no outs.
That strategy blew up when Farquhar forced in the go-ahead run by walking Garica on four pitches. In came Olmos. A passed ball on Zunino. Cano’s error. A three-run deficit.
Farquhar’s demotion was a bit of surprise since he had pitched well in three previous outings since his latest return from Tacoma.
“I thought I had things figured out,” he said. “One bad outing, I guess that’s what happens.”
Neal Jones (1-0) got the victory after pitching a scoreless ninth. David Robertson closed out the game for his 25th save.
It was a feel-good Nuno story until the ninth. He limited the White Sox to one run and five hits in 6 2/3 innings before handing a two-run lead to the bullpen. A streak-breaking victory was within reach.
“It’s part of the game,” he said. “I go out there and take it pitch by pitch. It’s unfortunate that it’s been 19 (starts) without a win. But I know what I’ve got to do very day to get ready and keep my arm healthy.”
The Mariners trailed 1-0 against Chicago lefty Carlos Rodon until the sixth, when Nelson Cruz led off with a line-drive double past center fielder Adam Eaton.
Cruz went to third when Sanchez couldn’t handle Cano’s slow grounder to second. Sanchez was charged with an error when he couldn’t come up with the ball after a hard charge.
Franklin Gutierrez followed with a two-run double into the left-center gap, and the Mariners had their first lead since winning Tuesday night in Texas. Gutierrez finished with three of the Mariners’ eight hits.
Austin Jackson’s sharp hopper back to the box got past Rodon — and was scored a single. That made it first and third with no outs for Jesus Montero, who grounded into a run-scoring double play.
So three runs. It could have been more. But three runs.
It seemed enough.
“Things are not going our way right now,” Cano said. “When it’s not going your way, you can do whatever you want, and it’s not going to go your way.”
SUNDAY: Chicago White Sox (LHP John Danks: 6-10, 4.61 ERA) at Seattle (RHP Taijuan Walker: 8-7, 4.60), 1:10 p.m., Root Sports, 710-AM