By Larry LaRue The News Tribune
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — After any one-run loss, a team can see moments from the game that might have changed the outcome — though rarely do they find as many as the Seattle Mariners did Wednesday.
In a game they led 3-0 and then tied at 4, the Mariners lost their fifth game in a row, this one to Tampa Bay, 5-4.
Game changing moments?
Start with the 14 strikeouts piled up by Seattle hitters.
“That’s ridiculous,” manager Eric Wedge said. “These guys are better than that. If we have to change personnel, so be it. If we have to change roles, so be it.
“It’s about producing.”
A team that came in on an 0-for-30 stretch with runners in scoring position, the Mariners on this night went 2-for-6 — and both hits were delivered by Kyle Seager.
The first was a three-run home run in the first inning, and after a solo home run in the sixth inning, Seager singled into left field with Ichiro Suzuki at second base in the eighth inning.
Ichiro couldn’t score.
And then, there was the Seattle defense.
Alex Liddi had a ball roll through his legs for an error, then he and second baseman Dustin Ackley miscommunicated on a pop fly and let it fall between them in the fourth inning.
It led to two Rays runs.
“At it’s peak, I lost it,” Ackley said. “Liddi said he had it, but I think he may have lost it to. I yelled, ‘You got it?’ and with the noise he might have just heard ‘got it.’
“We’ve got to do better than that.”
Wedge’s thought was stronger.
“One of those guys has got to catch that,” he said. “There’s no way in hell that ball falls for a hit.”
It did, and the Rays turned it into a 4-3 lead against Blake Beavan, who fought his control and Tampa hitters for 51⁄3 innings.
“I didn’t keep us in it,” Beavan said. “I had no command of my fastball.”
And then, with the game tied in the sixth inning, Luke Scott hammered a pitch to straightaway center field. Michael Saunders turned in chase, leaping near the wall only to have the ball hit his glove and bounce over the wall.
“I think my glove was at the top of the wall, I got a piece of it,” Saunders said. “I haven’t seen a replay, so I really don’t know exactly what happened — if I hit the fence as the ball came down, before it did or just after.
“It happened kind of fast.”
When it was over, the Mariners trailed 5-4.
Still, there was more.
Leading off the eighth inning, Suzuki dropped a bunt single down the third base line, then scrambled to second base on a Wade Davis wild pitch with one out.
Seager, with two home runs already, singled to left field, but third base coach Jeff Datz threw up a stop sign for Suzuki — the ball was picked up in shallow left field.
With one out, Liddi popped out to the catcher.
That brought up Justin Smoak, dropped from fourth to seventh in the lineup. Smoak hit the ball on a line toward the right field corner, but Ben Zobrist ran it down for the final out.
“The eighth inning was the type of inning we have to take advantage of, finish off,” Wedge said. “We’re not looking for morale victories, but we’ve been in all these games we’re losing.
“We’re in games where one play, one pitch, one swing can change the outcome.”
Not that he was letting his team off easily.
“The strikeouts are disappointing,” Wedge said. “Our bad games can’t be that bad, we’ve got to be better. I keep talking about building a lineup capable of doing the job one through nine.
“Well tonight, one guy — Seager — kept us in the game. That’s a long way from having nine guys.”
Asked about his three-hit, two-home run night, Seager said it came because of focus.
“As tough as (James) Shields is, you might only get one pitch an at-bat to hit, if that, and you can’t miss it,” Seager said. “I’ve tried to be aggressive, been ready to swing once I step into the box.
“If you’re hesitant, it’s strike one, strike two, and then he puts you away.”
Which sums up the game for Chone Figgins and Brendan Ryan, who each struck out three times.
Figgins is now batting .198, Ryan .125. How is Wedge’s patience holding up.
“It’s not carte blanche, patience doesn’t last forever,” Wedge said. “It’s about production, and I’ve said it before. If you’re not getting it done, we’ll change roles.”