The season may be ending, but it appears the late-inning misery will continue for the Seattle Mariners.
On Friday night, they suffered their 13th walk-off loss of the season. C hris Iannetta singled over the head of center fielder Michael Saunders to score Kole Calhoun in the bottom of the 11th inning to give the Los Angeles Angels a 3-2 win.
Mariners’ lefty Bobby LaFromboise, who pitched much of the season with Triple A Tacoma and hadn’t been a part of the late-inning issues, was indoctrinated into the club, taking the loss.
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It was the 20th time the Mariners have played extra innings this season, one short of the club record of 21 games in 1982. And they’ve lost 14 of those games.
In times past, the bullpen has been the culprit of these losses. But manager Eric Wedge wouldn’t lay the blame on the five relievers he used.
“We used a lot of guys tonight to try to hold them off,” he said. “The bullpen has had their issues her elate, being worn down and being late and in these situations for the first time in September. I thought they did a real nice job tonight.”
LaFromboise was summoned with one out and runners on first and second in the 10th inning to face slugger Josh Hamilton. He got Hamilton to hit a broken bat ground ball to second for an inning-ending 4-6-3 double play.
“I went slider, slider and then fastball, I think he was looking for another slider,” LaFromboise said.
The Mariners actually could have been out of the inning the hitter before. Michael Saunders made a running catch on a line drive by Erick Aybar in center. Calhoun, who was on first, broke too far off the bag. Saunders tried to double him off first. But while his throw beat Calhoun to the bag, it pulled Justin Smoak off the bag. Calhoun was safe and Iannetta got his chance to be the hero.
“I had him out, but I threw it a little wide,’” Saunders said. “Smoaky made the smart play to come off the bag.”
Of course, if it wasn’t for Saunders, the Mariners wouldn’t even have been in the game.
For a while it looked like neither team had much interesting scoring as starters Erasmo Ramirez and Matt Shoemaker gave solid efforts.
The Mariners finally broke the 0-0 tie in the seventh inning. With the bases loaded and two outs, Saunders hammered a fastball into left field to score two runs.
After making some minor swing adjustments in St. Louis, Saunders is 6-for-13 (.461) with four doubles and a triple over his last four games.
But the reason Saunders got that chance to drive in the runs was due largely to the hustle and speed of Dustin Ackley, who beat pitcher Michael Kohn to the bag on a hard ground ball to first base with two outs to keep the inning alive.
“That’s a big play,” Wedge said. “He never takes that play off. That’s why it pays off for him. And Saunders has been swinging the bat well so that’s why I’ve been trying to play them more.”
However, the lead was short-lived. The Angels got it all back in the bottom of the seventh.
A throwing error from Kyle Seager and a walk from Ramirez to start the inning put the Mariners in trouble. Ramirez then was forced out of the game with a sore right groin.
“It’s pretty good,” Ramirez said. “It felt a little tight when I stretched too much from trying to throw harder.”
Ramirez felt the discomfort on the Trumbo ground ball that Seager booted.
“When I went to the stretch, that first pitch I tried to throw harder or was off balance,” he said. “I just try to put in my mind, don’t try to get crazy, don’t try to throw harder, just keep the ball down.”
But after walking Calhoun, Ramirez felt like the groin was getting to be an issue and told catcher Mike Zunino, who signaled for the trainer and Wedge.
“With treatment, I should make my next start like normal,” Ramirez said. “When (Wedge) got there I told him I want to pitch my last game. I don’t want to be injured at the end of the season.”
Wedge turned his bullpen, which has been a risky proposition all season. Wedge tried to go situational with his pitching match-ups, using Oliver Perez against Erick Aybar, who bunted the runners into scoring position.
Angels’ manager Mike Scioscia called on right-handed hitter Collin Cowgill to bat for Hank Conger. Wedge decided to call on right-hander Chance Ruffin to replace Perez. Scioscia countered with lefty-swinging Efren Navarro to face Ruffin. Ruffin struck out Navarro, but he couldn’t close out the inning. Andrew Romine laced a single into right to score two runs and tie the game. The Angels could have taken the lead moments later. But Ackley made a beautiful diving stop on J.B.Shuck’s hard one-hop ground ball to the right side. He got up and fired to first to get Shuck and end the inning.
The game stayed tied as the much maligned Mariners bullpen navigated out of trouble in the eighth inning thanks to a big strikeout of Josh Hamilton by Lucas Luetge with runners on first and second and no outs. Carter Capps came on to get a pair of fly outs to end the inning. Capps then worked a scoreless ninth to send it into extras.
Ramirez gave the Mariners another solid start before leaving with the injury.
He pitched six innings, giving up two unearned runs on six hits with a walk and three strikeouts.
The Angels got a good outing from Shoemaker, who tossed five shutout innings, giving up two hits with two walks and six strikeouts. Not bad for a guy that was filling in for Jered Weaver, who was scratched on Thursday with forearm tightness.