By Ryan Divish The News Tribune
SEATTLE — Yoervis Medina has been a pleasant surprise for the Seattle Mariners this season. An afterthought in spring training, the one-time starter converted to reliever began the season at Class AAA Tacoma. Because of injuries and attrition in the Mariners bullpen, Medina not only found himself pitching for the Mariners in April, but pitching meaningful innings in key situations as the season wore on.
And while his season is still considered a success as a whole, his propensity to allow at least a base runner in each appearance is something that needs to improve for the 25-year-old rookie.
On Sunday, that tendency turned into trouble in the Mariners’ 4-1 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays.
Brought on to protect a 1-0 lead in the eighth inning and then hand it over to closer Danny Farquhar in the ninth, Medina hit Evan Longoria with the first pitch of the inning. His next five pitches resulted in a walk to Luke Scott. Things only got worse as Medina gave up a double to right field to James Loney that tied the game at 1-1.
Mariners’ manager Eric Wedge brought in Oliver Perez to try and limit the damage, but pinch hitter Sean Rodriguez lined a single up the middle to score two more runs. All three runs were charged to Medina (4-5), who was saddled with the loss.
Medina has made 57 appearances this season, throwing 61 innings. And while he’s struck out 65 batters, he’s also walked 36 hitters and hit three of them with pitches. And of those 57 appearances, he’s issued a walk or hit batter in 29 of them. Often times, it’s the first hitter he faces.
“He’s had some issues with that first hitter,” Wedge said.
That many free base runners can only lead to trouble. With Carter Capps unavailable on Sunday and Wedge not trusting Tom Wilhelmsen to pitch in tight situations right now, he turned to Medina. It’s been that case often in the last few months. There just aren’t many reliable right-handed options for Wedge.
“He’s done a great job for us,” Wedge said. “He’s been a savior for us in the back end of or bullpen. We’ve had so many young kids that we’ve had to bring in and use in more pivotal roles than is probably fair to them.”
Down 3-1, the Mariners tried to answer in the bottom of the inning. Abraham Almonte coaxed a leadoff walk from reliever Joel Peralta. Kendrys Morales later drew a one-out walk, but the Mariners didn’t capitalize. Peralta struck out Franklin Gutierrez and pinch hitter Raul Ibanez to end the inning and the Mariners’ victory hopes.
Hector Noesi gave up a run in the top of the ninth to make it 4-1. Seattle was set down 1-2-3 in the ninth by Rays closer Fernando Rodney.
Seattle was trying for just its third three-game sweep of the season.
The offense mustered little in the way of run support for starter Erasmo Ramirez.
Tampa starter Matt Moore was solid, pitching 6 1⁄3 innings, giving up one run on five hits with three walks and three strikeouts. It was the 13th time this season Moore has allowed one run or less.
“He was good,” Wedge said. “He’s a good pitcher. He has a great arm. He throws the ball downhill with two or three plus pitches. He was tough on us today.”
Moore’s only major mistake came in the second inning when he left a fastball out over the plate that Morales jumped all over, yanking it into the left-field stands for his 20th homer of the season.
“I was just trying to make contact and the let the speed of the pitch do the work for me,” Morales said through Mariners’ translator Ryan Schmitz.
In his last six games, Morales is hitting .421 (9-for-21) with a double, three homers and six RBI.
“I wasn’t seeing the ball as well earlier, I’ve corrected that,” Morales said. I’ve worked hard in the batting cage. My stance was a little too open and I’ve changed that.”
The solo home run gave the Mariners a 1-0 lead. They wouldn’t muster anything else, getting just three more hits against Moore. The Mariners now have a 20-29 record against left-handed starters this season.
“His kind of short arms it and his fastball gets on you,” said Justin Smoak.
Ramirez made the 1-0 lead stand up. He pitched six shutout innings, giving up just four hits while striking out five batters. The only negative was four walks.
“That was my favorite outing,” Ramirez said. “Nobody scored runs. I feel great. Even though I walked four, I was throwing to contact and not let the ball get over the plate.”
Ramirez got into a minor jam in the seventh, walking Kelly Johnson and giving up a single to Jose Lobaton. Wedge called on lefty Charlie Furbush to get the Mariners out of the jam. Furbush walked pinch hitter Will Myers, but then got pinch hitter Delmon Young to hit a soft comebacker to him. Furbush tossed the ball to home for the force out and catcher Henry Blanco fired to first to get Young for the double play. Furbush then got Ben Zobrist to fly out to end the inning.
Jake McGee (4-3) earned the win in relief for Tampa Bay.