What an opportunity.
More specifically, what an opportunity lost.
The Seattle Mariners let a five-run lead crumble with a series of miscues — most coming in the top of the ninth inning — as the Milwaukee Brewers avoided what could have been a Mariners sweep with a 7-6 victory on Sunday at Safeco Field.
Seattle had a 6-3 lead going into the top of the ninth.
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“We’ll get back at it tomorrow,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said. “There’s a lot of games left to play.
“But that one hurt a little bit.”
It was a ninth inning where seemingly anything that could have gone wrong, did go wrong.
One ball went off Leonys Martin’s glove in center field. Another dropped between Martin and left-fielder Norichika Aoki, who should have made the catch.
Tom Wilhelmsen was charged with four runs on two homers — the first runs he’s allowed since July 31.
“It’s not often anyone can say they’ve won a game, any one person. But in this line of work, you can say sometimes you definitely lost that game,” Wilhelmsen said. “And that’s the unfortunate part about it.”
Matters were made laughable when the Mariners (66-57) could have got out of the inning on a flyout to right fielder Shawn O’Malley. O’Malley threw the ball home to catcher Chris Iannetta to keep Manny Pina at third base, but in the process, Scooter Gennett had traveled to within a few steps of third.
Iannetta said he wanted to play it conservatively, so he charged at Pina and lobbed a throw to Kyle Seager instead of to Robinson Cano, who appeared to be calling for the ball at second base. Gennett raced back to the bag safely.
“We don’t want to keep throwing the ball all over the place and have a double rundown going on, especially with everything that had been going on that inning,” Iannetta said. “I think the safe play was to run that guy back to second base.”
The loss ended the Mariners’ eight-game winning streak at Safeco Field.
“Disappointing — there’s no doubt,” Servais said. “We’ve had a real good streak going here at home. It’s been fun. I thought we did enough offensively tonight. We got to finish it, got to close it out. Unfortunately we just didn’t get it done today.”
And it came as the Mariners were three outs away from moving to a season-best 11 games over .500, closing the gap to five games on the Texas Rangers in the AL West and moving into a tie with the Baltimore Orioles for the final wild card spot.
Closer Edwin Diaz wasn’t called upon to pitch because he had thrown 34 pitches in a save on Friday. Servais said that was determined prior to Sunday’s game.
That meant Wilhelmsen would attempt to earn his second save this season.
“If you would have said we had a three-run lead going into the ninth and we were going to give it to Tom Wilhelmsen, I would have felt very, very good about it,” Servais said. “It just didn’t work out.
“Wilhelmsen has done an awesome job. He really has for us. He just didn’t quite have it today.”
Keon Broxton led off the ninth with a solo home run — his second homer of the game.
After Ryan Braun struck out and Hernan Perez doubled, Chris Carter hit a tough outside pitch for a two-run homer that was just over Shawn O’Malley’s glove near the right-field wall.
Carter had stopped at second to wait for the umpire to signal it as a home run and not an out after O’Malley had sprinted and leaped into the wall.
“Carter hit a ball off the plate, opposite field, that was away, at Safeco Field for a homer,” Iannetta said. “You don’t normally see that.
“It was ball four.”
It tied the game at 6-6.
Gennett then hit a fly ball off Vidal Nuno between Aoki and Martin two batters later. Aoki didn’t judge the ball correctly and it landed between the two of them for a base hit and driving in the go-ahead run.
“I felt the presence of (Martin) there,” Aoki said through an interpreter. “I felt him coming for the ball.”
Offensively, the Mariners scored a combined 21 runs in the three games this series.
Seattle jumped to a 3-0 lead in the third inning. Ketel Marte drove in Martin, who led off with a ground-rule double that pinballed off the foul pole in the left-field corner.
Seth Smith followedwith the first of two RBI singles in back-to-back innings before Robinson Cano drove in one more with an RBI groundout.
Mariners starter Ariel Miranda hadn’t allowed a hit until Broxton homered with one out in the top of the fourth inning.
The Mariners went and made it 6-1 in the bottom half of the fourth, pounding Brewers starter Matt Garza for three more runs on RBIs from Smith, Cano and Nelson Cruz.
Miranda left with two outs in the sixth inning when Ryan Braun drove in two runs with a ground-rule double, cutting the lead to 6-3.
“I felt like I should have gone a little longer,” Miranda said through an interpreter. “At least complete that inning.”
He had done just enough — with Steve Cishek, Nick Vincent and Arquimedes Caminero pitching 2 1/3 scoreless innings to set up Wilhelmsen in the top of the ninth.
The Mariners had a chance to tie it back up in the bottom of the ninth.
Marte led off with a single and advanced to second with two outs with Cano up. But he flew out to end the game.
“We didn’t make the plays and we didn’t get it done in the end today,” Servais said. “It’s unfortunate. No one is happy about it. But we’ll show up ready to get after it against the Yankees tomorrow.”
PLAY OF THE GAME: Carter’s two-run homer off Wilhelmsen with one out in the top of the ninth inning to tie the game at 6-all.
O’Malley leaped into the wall to try to catch the ball, but it was just over his glove.
PLUS: Miranda retired nine of the first 10 batters he faced. He pitched well enough to put himself in line for the win, his second in his three career major league starts — all with Seattle.
MINUS: Broxton’s fourth-inning home run for the Brewers appeared to be a ball Aoki, who is 5-foot-9, could have caught, but didn’t get his glove high enough to make the catch.
“The ball carried more than I thought and the sun got in my eyes, too,” Aoki said through an interpreter. “I didn’t get a good read.”
That was the Brewers’ first hit of the game off Miranda.
STAT PACK: The good news for Aoki is that he continues to provide a spark at the plate since his return to Seattle from Triple-A Tacoma. He hit a leadoff single in the bottom of the first inning for his 12th game in his past 15 that he has hit safely.
He was 2-for-4 on the day.
QUOTABLE: Wilhelmsen put the loss on himself, afterward, after he was credited for four earned runs trying to earn his second save of the season. He was pulled after one out for Vidal Nuno.
But he said this isn’t a loss that will shake the team’s confidence.
“We know we’re going to lose at some point. Big deal,” Wilhelmsen said. “We’re a great team.
“Hopefully we can come out tomorrow and kick some butt.”
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