Once again it looked as though the Mariners would be trudging off the field dejected while the opposing team celebrated, just like earlier this season in Cleveland and Minnesota.
Surprise. It didn’t happen. Instead, the Mariners (32-40) found a way to win a game that looked almost certain to be slipping away from them like so many before.
Kyle Seager came up with a two-out double in the top of the 10th inning and Kendrys Morales scored him moments later with a single off the glove a leaping Erick Aybar to lead the Mariners to a 3-2 win over the Los Angeles Angels on Tuesday night at Angels Stadium.
Morales’ late-inning heroics were only part of getting the win. Seattle still needed to navigate its way through the bottom of the 10th.
With closer Tom Wilhelmsen on sabbatical from closing duties, Oliver Perez already having thrown earlier and Carter Capps struggling, the onus fell on hard-throwing rookie Yoervis Medina.
An afterthought for much of spring training, Medina came through, working a 1-2-3 inning — retiring Pujols, Mark Trumbo and Howie Kendrick — to pick up his first career big league save.
Of course, all the drama wouldn’t have been needed if the Mariners could have simply held the 2-1 lead given them by starter Jeremy Bonderman after six solid innings of work. Bonderman allowed just one run — a solo homer to Mark Trumbo — in his third straight quality start.
But the bullpen couldn’t hold the lead as Wilhelmsen’s struggles continued.
The last time Wilhelmsen came in to protect a lead was in Bonderman’s previous start in Safeco Field. He was called on to close out a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the ninth and gave up five runs. He lost his closing job after that.
This time he entered in the eighth inning to protect a 2-1 lead. Different inning, another bad result. Wilhelmsen left a 97 mph fastball up on the inside half of the plate and Albert Pujols deposited it into the left-field stands for a solo home run — his 12th homer of the year — and tied the score at 2-2.
Wilhelmsen did manage to keep the scoree tied, retiring the next three batters in order.
Mariners manager Eric Wedge sent Wilhelmsen back out for the ninth. He immediately gave up a lead-off single Erick Aybar and then walked Chris Iannetta. But Wilhelmsen showed a little moxie, striking out Peter Bourjos after he failed on two bunt attempts and getting Mike Trout to fly out to center field.
Wedge went to lefty Charlie Furbush to face Josh Hamilton in a left-vs.-left situation. Furbush continued Hamilton’s night of misery, striking him out. For the game, Hamilton went 0-for-5, hitting into three double plays and striking out twice.
Despite the victory, the Mariners continued to be far from an offensive juggernaut. They managed just eight hits in the game.
Seattle grabbed a 2-0 lead in the second inning in a somewhat unlikely fashion. Well, the first part wasn’t a surprise: Raul Ibanez crushed a solo home run to right field off of Joe Blanton to lead-off the inning. It was Ibanez’s team-leading 14th home run of the season. But the next run was a little unexpected.
Justin Smoak fresh off a stint on the disabled list where he missed 20 days and 18 games, ripped the first pitch he saw from Blanton over the wall in right field for his fourth homer of the season.
Smoak’s homer was a line drive that barely cleared the wall, and it was close enough that Angels’ manager Mike Scioscia asked home plate umpire John Hirschbeck to review the play. The umpires met for about five minutes and it was ruled a home run.
That little burst was all the offense the Mariners mustered against Blanton, who came into the game with a 5.87 earned run average.
Blanton, who worked tortoise-like pace, didn’t allow another run and just four runners reached base during the next 42⁄3 innings. It helped that the Mariners couldn’t stop striking out against Blanton, who recorded 11 strikeouts in the game.
The outing put Blanton on a list of nine starting pitchers to strike out 10 or Mariners hitters in an outing this season. The list includes Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer, CC Sabathia, Yu Darvish, Derek Holland, but also the likes of Blanton and Eric Stults.
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