By Larry LaRue The News Tribune
CLEVELAND — It came down to Steve Delabar in the eighth inning, Brandon League in the 11th and the Seattle Mariners watched both fail.
After the Cleveland Indians overcame a 4-0 lead in the eighth inning, then a 5-4 Mariners lead in the 11th to beat League and Seattle 6-5 Wednesday, it came down to tough talk in the clubhouse.
“We gave that game away,” manager Eric Wedge said of Seattle’s fifth loss in six games on this trip. “Walks killed us twice. It’s not like they hit us around — we put them on base to be driven in.”
Then he turned to his offense.
“We’ve got to do better with runners in scoring position,” Wedge said. “We had opportunities today, but the middle of our lineup has to do more.”
A member of the Japanese media asked Wedge about Ichiro Suzuki, who took a rare 0-for-6, has gone 6-for-31 on this trip and is now batting .278.
“Icihro is one of the few veterans we have, he knows how to hit,” Wedge said. “But he’s got to hit better with men in scoring position.”
It was clearly the toughest loss of a trip that thus far has seen the Mariners lose two of three in New York, then both games in Boston and both played in Cleveland.
This time, the Mariners manufactured runs early — putting one up without a hit in both the third and fifth innings — and got a dominant performance from starting pitcher Hector Noesi.
By the eighth inning, the Mariners had a 4-1 lead and needed six outs for a win.
Usually, the eighth inning belongs to Tom Wilhelmsen, who has struggled recently. This time, Wedge went with Delabar.
Delabar walked the first man he faced, got two quick outs, then walked ex-Mariner first baseman Casey Kotchman, batting .193 at the time. That let Cleveland bring the potential tying run to the plate in the person of … Jose Lopez.
Lopez, a former Mariner, had endured a terrible game, making an error at third base, tapping back to the mound with the bases loaded and going 0-for-3 to drop his average to .212.
Delabar left a fastball over the inner half of the plate, and Lopez turned on it, made it his second home run of the season and tied the game 4-4.
“Guys have to learn how to put these games away, offensively and from the mound,” Wedge said. “You can’t walk batters. It gives the other team hope.”
Shortstop Brendan Ryan, who walked twice and had two hits, said watching the first-place Indians the past two games proved to him they were a disciplined team at the plate.
“You could see they had a great approach both days, they had a solid game plan and stuck with it,” Ryan said. “They took breaking pitches that were close, they got into hitters counts and took advantage of that.”
In the 11th inning, the Mariners came back. It started with a single by Ryan. Dustin Ackley, who earlier extended his hitting streak to 13 games, grounded into a fielder’s choice.
Michael Saunders, 0-for-5, doubled off the left-field wall to score Ackley from first base and give Seattle a 5-4 lead.
Brandon League time.
“I felt fine warming up in the bullpen, I got out on the mound and threw four straight balls to Jose Lopez, all of them high,” League said. “I made a slight adjustment, struck out (Shin-Soo) Choo, then lost it again.
“I was handing out bases on balls, I loaded the bases with walks …”
Asdrubal Cabrera, another former Mariner, singled Lopez home for the tie.
Finally, the Indians loaded ’em up with one out for Carlos Santana.
“As long as you’re on the field, there’s a chance,” League said. “If I’d made the right pitch, gotten a ground ball, we might get the double play and get to hit again.
“But I was up, down, everywhere but where I wanted. The last pitch was where I wanted it — away — but too high. Losing like that sucked. Costing us a game where we had two chances to win it? That sucked.”
Santana singled home Cleveland’s sixth run, and the Mariners headed for Colorado to open the interleague portion of their 2012 schedule today.