By Ryan Divish The News Tribune
SEATTLE – With their playoff dreams basically dashed since the end of the July, the Seattle Mariners are now playing to crush the postseason hopes of someone else. The Kansas City Royals arrived in Safeco Field with playoff chances that were somewhere between slim and “yeah right.” But there was a mathematical chance and losing games weren’t part of that equation.
For much of Monday night, it appeared the Mariners might just derail the Royals’ run at a playoff spot. But in the end, Seattle suffered yet another extra inning defeat in a season filled with them, losing 6-5 in 12 innings.
Kansas City catcher Salvador Perez, who made a brilliant defensive play in the bottom of the 10th, lashed a double to left field off Lucas Luetge to score Alex Gordon from second and provide the game-winning run.
The Mariners had their chances in bottom of the 12th. Abraham Almonte and Kyle Seager drew a back-to-back walks off of Royals’ all-star closer Greg Holland. But the Mariners couldn’t do anything with them. Kendrys Morales flew out to left field and Franklin Gutierrez and Michael Saunders struck out to end the game.
“We had so many opportunities,” Seattle manager Eric Wedge said. “We just didn’t take advantage. So close but yet so far.”
It was the Mariners’ 15th extra0inning loss of the season.
“We’ve been close so many times,” Wedge said.
The extra innings overshadowed a pretty good matchup of young starting pitchers.
The Royals took a 2-0 lead in the top of the fourth against Mariners’ starter Brandon Maurer. Billy Butler singled home Emilio Bonifacio. On the play, outfielder Abraham Almonte showed poor judgment, firing wildly to third base trying to make a play on Eric Hosmer. The throw went over the head of Kyle Seager and Hosmer trotted home.
That would be the only runs Maurer allowed in perhaps his best start of the season. The rookie right-hander worked a season-high seven innings, giving up just the two runs (one earned) on four hits with six strikeouts and a walk.
His teammates even tried to put him in line for the win.
Seattle scored a run in the sixth off Kansas City’s hard-throwing rookie starter Yordano Ventura. The right-hander cruised through the first five innings allowing just one hit and striking out five while flashing a fastball that touched 100 mph. But a two-out walk to Brad Miller in the sixth, followed by a wild pitch put a runner in scoring position allowing Almonte to single home Miller.
In the bottom of the seventh, the Mariners took a brief 3-2 lead as Mike Zunino ripped a line drive to center field off of lefty reliever Will Smith. The line drive was knuckling out to center fielder Jarrod Dyson, who never got a clear read on the ball and missed it. Michael Saunders, who was pinch running for Justin Smoak, scored all the way from first. Zunino later scored on Nick Franklin’s single to left off of reliever Tim Collins
But the Mariners bullpen couldn’t make the 3-2 lead hold up. Lefty Charlie Furbush, who has looked fatigued the past few weeks, struggled in the eighth. He gave up an RBI single to Alex Gordon and the Mariners defense let him down, failing to turn an inning-ending double play with Franklin’s relay throw bouncing to first and pulling Dustin Ackley off the bag.
Wedge lifted the struggling Furbush for Tom Wilhelmsen, who promptly gave up an RBI single to Salvador Perez. The run was charged to Furbush.
The Mariners went from being up 3-2 to being down 5-3 in just an inning. Sadly, that isn’t the first time it’s happened this season.
But Seattle responded in the most unlikely of ways in the eighth. On a chilly night when the ball wasn’t supposed to carry, the Mariners got back-to-back homers from two players who didn’t even start in the game.
With one out, Franklin Gutierrez, who came in as a defensive replacement for Raul Ibanez, destroyed a Luke Hochevar pitch into the center field beer gardens. It was his ninth homer of the season. Two pitches later, Saunders crushed a Hochevar fastball deep into the seats in right-center for his 11th homer this season. It was the sixth time the Mariners have hit back-to-back homers this season.
Neither team could win it in regulation. But Seattle nearlywon it in the 10th inning. Kyle Seager scalded a ball into the right-center gap for a double and advanced to third when Justin Maxwell bobbled it as he picked it up. The Mariners being the Mariners somehow couldn’t score Seager. After an intentional walk to Kendrys Morales, a strikeout from Gutierrez, another intentional walk to Saunders loaded the bases. Wedge elected to go with pinch hitter Endy Chavez instead of Zunino. Chavez hit a weak fly ball to shallow left field. Alex Gordon made the catch and fired home with Seager tagging up and scoring. The throw bounced once on the turf and Perez made a brilliant catch and tag to just barely get Seager on the arm.