On a night where few things seemed to go right for the Seattle Mariners, the play of their young catcher, Adam Moore, was the shining exception. Perhaps, it would have been the game where fans could point to and say, this is where the rookie started playing like a veteran.
Instead, what started as an ugly, mistake-filled game, continued to be on and it ultimately overshadowed Moore’s breakout game, leading to a 5-4 loss to the Baltimore Orioles at Camden Yards.
With the August air thick and heavy and humid, both teams seemed to be fighting to breathe let alone play well.
And often the baseball resembled two teams that have a combined 150 losses. Baltimore and Seattle combined for 27 hits, but were a combined 4-for-23 with runners in scoring position and stranded 25 runners, while combining to strike out 20 times, including 13 for the Mariners.
In the end, it was a bunt single in the unlikeliest of situations that won the Orioles the game.
With Felix Pie on third and two outs in the bottom of the 11th, former Mariners prospect Adam Jones dropped down a bunt on the third base line. Seattle third baseman Jose Lopez was playing behind the bag with two outs and never had a chance to make the play. His bare-handed attempt bounced off his hand. But Pie would have scored and Jones would have likely beaten a throw had Lopez fielded it cleanly.
“There were two outs, but (Jones) can do it,” said Mariners manager Daren Brown, who managed Jones for just over three seasons in the minor leagues. “With the way (Sean White) has been throwing, we thought we’d go right at him there. He dropped one down on us and there wasn’t much we could do right there.”
Any chance if Lopez gets it cleanly?
“Probably not,” Brown said.
But exactly how the Mariners found themselves in that situation would be the more frustrating aspect than the Jones’ surprise bunt.
Seattle realistically should have won the game in the 10 innings, thanks largely to Moore.
Given a chance to prove that he can be the catcher of the future, Moore had a game that would make you believe he will be. Coming into the ninth inning, he’d already gotten three hits in four at-bats. But it was his play in the field that kept the Mariners in the game.
Baltimore led off the ninth with a single from Josh Bell, who was then lifted for pinch runner Julio Lugo. The Orioles tried to move the runner up, but lead-off hitter Brian Roberts’ bunt was only about eight inches in front of the plate. Moore pounced on the ball and without hesitating, fired to second to get Lugo easily. The play happened so quick, the Mariners just missed turning a double play on Roberts at first by a step.
“We work on it every day with Roger (Hansen),” Moore said of the Mariners bench coach and catching instructor. “Getting out and getting the ball, there is no thinking. You just react and go with what you feel. The ball was lying out in front of the plate, I was able to get a good jump on it and fire to second.”
But Moore wasn’t done in the inning. Roberts, who has 261 career stolen bases, was certain to test the young rookie. And he did, but Brown guessed right and called for a pitch out. Brandon League’s pitch-out pitch wasn’t quite ideal and was closer to a strike. Still Moore gloved it anyway and fired to second to get Roberts easily, erasing any Orioles hopes in the inning.
So will opponents now take heed of his arm?
“I’d hope so,” he said.
In top of the 10th, Moore gave Seattle’s its only lead of the game, ripping a 94 mph fastball off of reliever Alfredo Simon into the stands in left for his third homer of the season.
“Big ball game from Adam Moore,” Brown said.
But the Mariners couldn’t hold the lead. Closer David Aardsma, who had not allowed a run in his last 12 appearances, struggled with his command from the beginning.
Aardsma gave up a bloop infield single to Luke Scott to start the inning. Orioles’ manager Buck Showalter called on Corey Patterson to pinch run. Aardsma then walked Jones to put runners on first and second. Seattle then appeared to get a break as first base umpire Adrian Johnson called Felix Pie out at first on his bunt attempt. Replays showed Pie to have beaten throw.
With runners on second and third and one out, Brown chose to intentionally walk big catcher Matt Wieters. The move worked as the next batter Cesar Izturis grounded into a force play at home. With two outs, Aardsma needed only to retire Lugo, who had not had an at-bat in the entire game. But the Mariners closer simply couldn’t find the strike zone. Aardsma missed with a split finger to fall behind 1-0 and then threw thee straight fastballs out of the strike zone to walk in the tying run.
Aardsma needed a brilliant play from Casey Kotchman at first on a dribbler just to get out of the inning.
“Aardsma had to battle to get out of the inning giving up one run,” Brown said.
But the Mariners can largely blame their offense, which left 12 men on base and was 2-for-12 with runners in scoring position, while striking out 13 times in the game.
“We had opportunities to score more runs, but didn’t do it,” Brown said. “It came back to bite us at the end.”
Instead of talking about his big game, Moore was left to figure out what went wrong.
“It’s real tough,” he said. “Obviously when I hit that home run and after those plays… everything was feeling good,” he said. “To see that bunt and to see them celebrate on us in the late innings, it’s discouraging. But we got come back tomorrow and get after them again.”