By Bob Dutton The News Tibune
SEATTLE — Welp…
That should be enough, Mariners fans. “Welp” and nothing more. No report that starts with “welp” ever brings good news. If you’re a parent or, in some cases, a wife, you know this.
The Mariners are lurching into their weekend series against first-place Oakland after falling for the fifth time in seven games when their bullpen gambit failed Thursday in a 4-2 loss to the Minnesota Twins.
“We got 12 hits,” first baseman Logan Morrison said, “and I felt like we lined out a bunch. We had runners on. We had our chances. We didn’t get the job done tonight.
“I think if we keep this approach, and keep getting guys on, good things are going to happen. We’re going through a little rough patch, but we’ll be all right. That’s baseball. Sometimes, you hate it. That’s the way it goes.”
Right now, it’s not going well.
Outfielder Michael Saunders is scheduled for a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) exam on Friday after grabbing his left ribcage after he checked a swing in the eighth inning.
“We’ll find out what’s going on,” manager Lloyd McClendon said. “He just felt a sharp pain in his side. Not sure what it is right now.”
Tom Wilhelmsen started for the first time in his big-league career, after 190 relief outings, as a consequence of McClendon’s decision to provide ace Felix Hernandez with an extra day of rest.
The extra day means Hernandez will pitch today when the A’s arrive for the first of three games at Safeco Field.
McClendon hoped to get three “quality” innings from Wilhelmsen; he got 2 2/3 innings … and damage was two runs. Two tainted runs due, in part, to a throwing error by catcher Mike Zunino on a double steal in a two-run third.
Wilhelmsen likely deserved better.
“It went really quick after the hours of anxiety and eagerness to get out there,” he said. “Things just got away a little bit. Walked a couple of guys. A couple too many.”
It was enough to pin Wilhelmsen (1-2) with a loss because the Mariners’ attack flat-lined yet again.
Twins rookie Yohan Pino threw 100 pitches in five innings but still got his first career victory after yielding just one run — a leadoff homer in the second by Kyle Seager.
Pino (1-2) escaped bases-loaded, two-out jams in the third and fifth innings by retiring Corey Hart.
In the third, Hart swung through a 78-mph high curve on a full count. In the fifth, he sent a squibber to first on an 88-mph fastball on 2-0. Hart had a single in the eighth but is 5-for-25 since returning from the disabled list.
“He’s fighting himself a little bit,” McClendon said. “The last at-bat was better. He stayed on that ball and got a hit to right center. We need Corey Hart. We’ve got to continue to run him out there. He’ll get better.”
Minnesota relievers Anthony Swarzak, Brian Duensing, Casey Fein and Glen Perkins protected Pino’s victory by limiting the Mariners to one run over the final four innings. Perkins got his 22nd save.
The Mariners ran themselves out of a big threat in the seventh after loading the bases with one out. Seager sent a sacrifice fly to left, but third baseman Trevor Plouffe cut the throw and nailed James Jones at third.
The original call by umpire Gabe Morales ruled Jones was safe, but the Twins challenged — and replays overturned the call and ended the inning.
“That’s part of the growing pains,” McClendon said. “This young man is going to be an exciting player for a long time. It’s unfortunate. He’s going to make some mistakes. That was one of them.”
The Mariners have scored nine runs in 67 innings over the last week while going 1-2 against the Chicago White Sox and 1-3 against the Twins. Those two teams are battling to avoid last place in the American League Central.
And point to note: The White Sox and Twins rank 12th and 13th among the 15 AL clubs in earned run average. Only Houston and Texas are worse. The A’s arrive Friday with the league’s best ERA.
“You’ve just got to keep doing what we’re doing,” Zunino said, “and, hopefully, we start getting some timely hitting. That’s all we can do. Keep trying to barrel up the baseball.”
The game slipped away after Danny Farquhar gave up two-out singles in the fifth to Kurt Suzuki and Chris Parmelee. That brought lefty Joe Beimel into the game to turn ex-Mariner Kendrys Morales around to the right side.
Morales sent a drive to deep center that got over Jones head.
“It was a just a bad read,” Jones said. “It was hit hard, and I should have gone back on it instead of staying there and trying to read it.”
Suzuki scored easily, but the Mariners had a play on Parmelee at the plate — until Zunino whiffed on his swipe at a slight off-line throw from Cano. It meant a two-run double for Morales. The Twins led 4-1.