It seems impossible to fathom, but the Seattle Mariners found a different way to lose in walk-off fashion. That says something considering they came into Busch Stadium having lost 11 times via walk-off. There’ve been towering homers, bloop singles, ground balls with yes and even sacrifice flies. But there has always been a ball off the bat of an opponent that led to defeat.
That changed on Friday, perhaps fittingly, Friday the 13th.
When Mike Zunino couldn’t quite glove an outside pitch from Oliver Perez and the ball squirted just far enough away from him for Pete Kozma to race home and score for a 2-1 win in 10th inning, it made it a dozen times that the Mariners’ watched a team spill onto the field and celebrate a victory like sugar-amped children.
But none of those came on a passed ball.
“It was to my glove side and I just sort of lost track of it when it was heading toward my glove and I caught it right off my thumb,” Zunino said. “I need to be anticipating that. It just trickled away too far.”
To lose in that manner was a gut punch feeling for Zunino, who puts defense ahead of offense in terms of personal importance. It completely overshadowed the fact that he accounted for the Mariners only run in the game, blasting a solo homer off Cardinals starter Adam Wainright in the fifth inning.
“It’s frustrating,” Zunino said. “I take a lot of pride in my defense. That’s a play where you get looked at. For me, a good game as a catcher is where people don’t notice anything.”
But Mariners manager Eric Wedge wouldn’t let Zunino shoulder the entire blame for the team’s 13th extra inning loss.
“We should have never been in that situation,” Wedge said. “That pop-up should have been caught. And we shouldn’t have been in the double play situation, but if you are, then you have to come across the bag and make a decent throw.”
The two mistakes Wedge was referring to came in the eighth inning with the Mariners leading 1-0.
With one out, reliever Charlie Furbush got Brock Peterson to hit a high pop fly into short right field. Nick Franklin called for it and was camped underneath the ball. At first, it looked like he had it all the way. But as the ball started coming down, Franklin didn’t appear quite as certain as his feet began to shuffle quickly. At the last minute, he made an awkward reach out to the side for the ball, but it dropped to the outfield grass.
Peterson never stopped running and was standing on second.
“It got up the in air and the ball started traveling on me, and once it started traveling on me I had to go get it,” Franklin said. “And I fell short of it.”
Furbush then walked Matt Carpenter while Kozma stole third during the at-bat. Still, it looked like the Mariners would get out of the inning with the 1-0 lead. John Jay rolled over and hit a perfect double play ball to Franklin, who gloved it and made a good lead throw to second for the double play. However, Brad Miller’s throw to first in the dirt and to the left of the bag and Kendrys Morales couldn’t scoop it cleanly.
It allowed Kozma to tie the game at 1-1.
The Cardinals’ two runs were direct results of the Mariners’ three prized rookies. Miller and Franklin have combined for 19 errors since being called up. Wedge knows all three are going to make mistakes because of their inexperience, but it doesn’t mean they are acceptable.
“It’s our youth,” Wedge said. “You saw it again tonight. There were multiple plays that have to be made. We’ve got a lot of young players and they are very inexperienced. When you are playing tight ball games like a lot of our ball games have been and you are tight late, that’s when it really shows itself to you.”
It was a tough night all around for Franklin. Besides the dropped pop fly. He was thrown out in between third and home with two outs in the fifth. Franklin was on second with two out and Abraham Almonte hit a ball up the middle. Carpenter made a brilliant diving stop and got up and saw Franklin was stuck after third base coach Daren Brown tried to hold him up.
“He was sending me to go and then put on the brakes, but as soon as I put on the brakes I slipped and had a tough time getting back to third base,” Franklin said.
In the ninth inning, Zunino led off with a single and Franklin was tasked with bunting him to second, instead he popped his bunt out to first.
But the rookies weren’t the only issue in the loss. Seattle had 10 hits in the game and still had the one run – Zunino’s homer.
“I’m just trying to have some good at-bats,” Zunino said. “That’s all you can really do this time of year is set some building blocks.”
The late inning miscues meant Hisashi Iwakuma’s stellar outing would go to waste. Iwakuma threw seven shutout innings, giving up just three hits, while walking two and striking out one, against a potent Cardinals line-up.
“They have a solid team,” Iwakuma said through translator Antony Suzuki. “If you look at their line-up, they keep the ball in play, they don’t’ chase at pitches. They were tough outs.”
It was an outing good enough to win on most nights for most teams.
“Kuma was really good,” Wedge said. “He was strong and felt good. But I was very impressed with the way he threw ball.”
With the outing, Iwakuma went over the 200-inning mark this season – an accomplishment for any starting pitcher.
“I’m very happy to achieve this,” he said. “This was one of my goals, to stay healthy and stay in the rotation.”