SEATTLE — As theater, this was great stuff Tuesday night at Safeco Field. Not particularly great or clean baseball, but wildly entertaining. The end, though, brought only most heartbreak for Seattle’s fading Mariners.
Victory slipped away when Fernando Rodney couldn’t hold a one-run lead in the ninth inning and defeat arrived in the 11th: Garrett Jones hit a three-run homer that lifted the New York Yankees to a 5-3 victory.
Stephen Drew tied the game with a two-out RBI double against Rodney in the ninth inning and started the winning rally with a two-out single in the 11th against Tom Wilhelmsen.
When Brett Gardner followed with a double that moved Drew to third, the Mariners summoned Joe Beimel, who served up Jones’ game-winning blast on a 2-0 fastball. (VIDEO LINK)
“I’ve thrown that pitch a hundred times,” Beimel said, “and gotten guys to roll over on it.”
Not this time.
This was a crushing loss for the Mariners who, at 24-28, have now dropped four in a row and find themselves 8 1/2 games behind first-place Houston in the American League West Division.
Yankees closer Andrew Miller gave up one run before securing the victory for his 16th save. Justin Wilson (2-0) got the victory after pitching a scoreless 10th inning. Wilhelmsen (1-1) was the loser.
“Every loss is tough,” second baseman Robinson Cano said, “but the last thing you want to do is just give up. You’ve just got to keep your head up and forget about what happened and be ready to win (Wednesday).”
It was a wild ride.
Austin Jackson had his best game as a Mariner by reaching base in all six plate appearances. He had four hits, scored one run and broke a 1-1 tie with a two-out RBI double in the sixth inning.
There was an ump show that resulted in, first, the ejection of Mariners catcher Mike Zunino and, then, manager Lloyd McClendon. And say this: Whatever fine comes to McClendon, he got his money’s worth.
McClendon ripped into all four umpires in turn and even recalled some classic Lou Piniella tiffs by throwing and kicking his cap.
It was all footnotes and prelude because Rodney couldn’t hold a one-run lead in the ninth inning against the bottom of the Yankees’ order.
Rodney issued a leadoff walk to Chase Headley but retired the next two hitters before disaster struck.
Pinch-hitter Brian McCann flicked a single into left that moved Headley to third, and Drew yanked a 1-2 fastball (VIDEO LINK) into the right-field corner for a RBI double.
“That pitch,” Rodney said, “it could have been a little bit more down.”
Rodney did hold the tie, and stranded runners at second and third, by retiring Brett Gardner on a grounder to first.
Still, it was a blown save, his third in 17 chances, and snatched a victory away from Mike Montgomery, who held the Yankees to one run and four hits over six innings in his big-league debut.
“The debut of our starter was tremendous,” McClendon said. “He did an outstanding job. I don’t have enough adjectives to explain how good he was.”
McClendon also dismissed any suggestion that he needs a new closer after Rodney’s ERA jumped to 6.85.
“What’s the approach with Rodney?” McClendon echoed. “He blew a save, but I’ll stay the course. Listen, I know a lot of people are going to be up in arms because he blew a save, but a lot of people blow saves.”
Drew’s double also took Yankees starter CC Sabathia off the hook for an eighth loss in 10 decisions.
New York then loaded with bases with one out in the 10th inning after Wilhelmsen failed to cover first base on a sharp, bad-hop grounder to first baseman Logan Morrison.
The result was an infield single for Headley, but Wilhelmsen escaped that jam when Carlos Beltran grounded into a double play.
The Mariners got a leadoff single from Kyle Seager in their 10th, but Rickie Weeks popped up a sacrifice bunt, and Wilson turned it into a double play.
The late drama punctuated a night that saw the circus hit town in the third inning.
Gardner drew a one-out walk when, as replays confirmed, third-base umpire Tony Randazzo whiffed on a check-swing appeal. Gardner had started back toward the dugout before tossing his bat and heading to first.
A wild pitch moved Gardner to second.
Chris Young fouled out to first before Alex Rodriguez walked on a check-swing on a full count. This one was close, but that’s when the fun started.
Zunino was certain that Rodriguez swung and headed toward the dugout — and then barked when Will Little signaled no-swing. That got Zunino ejected, and brought McClendon out of the dugout.
“Just sort of the heat of the moment got to me,” Zunino said. “I thought (Montgomery) made a couple of big pitches there, and I just wanted them to be called so he could get out of that inning.”
When Little tossed McClendon, the party went viral. McClendon raged at Little and gave a blast to crew chief Phil Cuzzi, who came over from second. After some cap tossing and kicking, McClendon made his way to the plate.
Some sharp words for Mike DiMuro were just a prelude to McClendon’s main event: A confrontation with his nemesis, Randazzo, with whom McClendon has a growing history.
Finally, McClendon left the field.
Randazzo’s botched call, Little’s borderline call and the resulting argument didn’t help Montgomery, who served up a first-pitch RBI double to Mark Teixeira when play resumed.
The Yankees led 1-0, but the Mariners answered later in the inning when singles by Jackson, Cano and Cruz produced the tying run.
Jackson’s RBI double in the sixth (VIDEO LINK) gave the Mariners a 2-1 lead that sixth that lasted until Drew’s game-tying double in the ninth.
“To be one strike away from winning the ballgame, that’s tough,” McClendon said. “One thing I shared with my club, bad times don’t last, but good men do. I’ve got good men in that clubhouse. We’ll be just fine.”