By Ryan Divish The News Tribune
CHICAGO — When Dayan Viciedo’s screaming line drive finally crashed into the left-field seats at U.S. Cellular Field in the 10th inning on Sunday, it was the 44th win via walk-off home run since the park opened in 1991. It just feels like 43 of them have come against the Seattle Mariners.
To be fair, the Mariners have three of those losses via walk-off homer at U.S. Cellular. But this was the ninth time the White Sox have beaten Seattle in walk-off fashion.
Each time gets a little tougher for the Mariners to take.
Sunday’s 4-3 extra-inning loss cost Seattle a chance at a series win — something that doesn’t happen often.
The Mariners (3-4) have now lost 13 of their last 15 games against the White Sox (4-2) and 21 of their last 25 on Chicago’s South Side.
Right now, returning home to Safeco Field and playing the hapless Houston Astros seems like a very good thing.
“It was a hard fought ballgame, it was a hard fought series,” Mariners manager Eric Wedge said.
The Mariners had chances to win all three games, but left with just one victory.
The Mariners’ Kameron Loe came in to pitch the bottom of the 10th inning of a 3-3 game. He got Paul Konerko to line out to center to start the inning. But he fell behind to Viciedo, and tried to throw a 2-0 sinker on the outside corner. The pitch leaked back over the plate and Viciedo crushed it.
“If you pipe it down the middle on 2-0 to any of these big league hitters, they are probably going to put a good swing on it.” Loe said. “It was just a bad pitch.”
The Mariners probably should have never put Loe in that situation. Seattle got a solid start from Hisashi Iwakuma, which was good enough to win the game.
The right-hander pitched eight innings, giving up three runs on four hits with no walks and three strikeouts.
“Kuma was good again today,” Wedge said. “For him to go eight innings this early in the season, he was obviously very efficient. You are going to have some long balls here, but I thought he did a nice job of controlling the ball game.”
Iwakuma was given a 2-0 lead before throwing a pitch as Michael Morse hit his fifth homer of the season, a two-run shot deep to left off of White Sox starter Chris Sale.
But Iwakuma couldn’t keep the lead, leaving a split-finger fastball up to Adam Dunn, who crushed the pitch deep into the stands in right-center for a two run homer.
After the home run, Iwakuma retired 16 straight hitters.
“I was able to pitch in a very good rhythm and find my groove,” Iwakuma said through translator Antony Suzuki.
It’s not easy to do in a place like U.S. Cellular. The threat of the home run looms in every pitcher’s mind.
“It’s scary to pitch here,” Iwakuma said. “Anything that goes up in the air, it has a chance. The only thing we can do is keep the ball down and make them hit it on the ground.”
But the streak ended when Alex Rios jumped on an inside fastball from Iwakuma, hitting a solo homer to left to the game in the seventh inning. Rios homered in all three games of the series.
“We wanted to go in, and we did go in, but he still got to it,” Iwakuma said. “You just have to tip your hat to him.”
Still, it was an outing good enough to get a win. And for a while, his effort looked like it would be enough.
Seattle took a 3-2 lead in the sixth as Kendrys Morales hit his first home run as a Mariner, blasting a solo shot to left-center off Sale.
But that was all the offense the Mariners would muster. Morse struck out with runners in scoring position in the eight and 10th innings.
“We had opportunities there to do something and we didn’t take advantage of them, and they took it from there,” Wedge said.
Over the course of the first seven games of the season, Wedge has liked what he’s seen from his team in terms of effort — even in the losses.
“Obviously, these will guys will come out and fight and we knew that was going to be given,” he said. “It’s the first week. There are some good things that have happened and some things we need to get better with.”
Finding a little more stability within the offense is one of those things.
“We need to settle in offensively with different individuals and collectively,” Wedge said. “That will take some of the pressure off the pitching staff.”