The Seattle Mariners aren’t trying to invent new ways to lose games. It’s just sort of happening.
On Tuesday night, the Mariners dropped their fifth straight game of the home stand because the slightest of body movements. It wasfar from a motion and not quite a spasm.
But with two outs and runners on the corner in the 10th inning, Seattle closer Danny Farquhar made the most minimal of hesitations as he went to start his delivery. Home plate umpire CB Bucknor saw it and called a balk, allowing the winning run – Ian Kinsler - to trot home in what would be a 4-3 loss to the Texas Rangers.
“He was looking in for his sign, and he started up, and stopped, and moved his left shoulder,” Bucknor told a pool reporter postgame. “Any movement associated with his set position – he doesn’t come and stop – is a balk.”
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When it happened, Farquhar argued immediately. He had no idea what he did.
“I had to go back to the video see it,’ Farquhar said. “At the time, I had no idea. It was the slightest flinch, but it was a flinch. I didn’t feel like I did it at the time, but I went back and looked and it was a balk.”
Mariners’ manager Eric Wedge didn’t put up much of an argument about it.
“It was very subtle, but enough to where it was a balk,” Wedge said.
Texas manager Ron Washington didn’t see it. Neither did Kinsler at third or Alex Rios, who was batting at the time.
“I just saw CB yelling balk and started smiling,” Washington said.
While the balk will be remembered as the mistake that scored the run, Farquhar allowing Kinsler to easily steal third with one out earlier was far more costly.
Kinsler was on second and got a read on Farquhar’s timing to home. After a few pitches, he took off and there was really no chance of getting him.
“That was probably the biggest mistake of the inning was letting him get to third,” Farquhar said. “I should have held him on better. Letting him get to third with less than two outs, it’s not an ideal position to be in.”
Some may view it as a risky decision – not Kinsler.
"Really not that risky,” he said. “Unless I trip on my shoelace, I'm going to get there. It's a pretty calculated move.”
After Kinsler scored on the balk, Farquhar struck out Rios to end the inning.
The Mariners tried to tie it in bottom of the 10th. Kyle Seager punched a one-out single to left field off of Rangers’ closer Joe Nathan to get the tying run aboard. Kendrys Morales struck, but Justin Smoak drew a walk to prolong the inning. But Nathan got Michael Saunders to ground out into fielder’s choice to end the game.
Realistically, the balk never should have happened because the Mariners should have won the game in regulation.
Michael Saunders led of the bottom of the ninth with a sharp single off of lefty Neal Cotts. Wedge then called on Dustin Ackley to sacrifice bunt Saunders to second. Ackley instead got a hit in the strangest of ways. He popped up a bunt that went over the head of a charging Cotts and landed behind the mound for a single.
But the Mariners’ good fortunate ran out quickly. Washington brought in hard-throwing set-up man Tanner Scheppers to face a bunting Humberto Quintero. Like Ackley, Quintero popped the bunt up, only Scheppers caught the mistake in the air for an out.
“It’s frustrating,” Wedge said. “It’s something we haven’t done a very good job with.”
Scheppers then coolly struck out pinch hitter Nick Franklin and Brad Miller to end the inning and send it to the 10th.
The Mariners actually got off to a good start against Rangers’ starter Derek Holland, who has given them problems in the past.
Brad Miller drew a lead-off walk and Kyle Seager later drew a one-out walk. Kendrys Morales, who had been slumping of late, dumped a double into right to score Miller while Justin Smoak plated Seager with a sacrifice fly to center field.
However, Seattle starter Hisashi Iwakuma couldn’t hold the lead. The Rangers answered immediately, scoring three runs in the top of the second as Mitch Moreland, David Murphy and Elvis Andrus all collected RBI singles.
Seattle answered right back as Franklin Gutierrez blasted a solo home run to center field off of Holland to lead-off the third inning. Thanks to two lengthy disabled list stints, it was the first home run for the oft-injured Gutierrez since June 22.
The game stayed at 3-3 for the rest of regulation.
Both Iwakuma and Holland shook off the early issues. Iwakuma worked four scoreless innings after the second, allowing just two hits. He was lifted after six innings, having allowed the three runs on seven hits with a walk and seven strikeouts.
Holland didn’t allow another run after the Gutierrez homer. He also pitched six innings, giving up the three runs on six hits with four walks and five strikeouts.