CLEVELAND — The walk-off miseries for the Seattle Mariners continue at Progressive Field.
Less than 24 hours after watching the Cleveland Indians celebrate a winning homer in the 10th inning, the Mariners had to watch nearly the same thing again.
This time, there was no helpless feeling of watching a ball sail over the fence. This time, Seattle at least had a chance to fight off defeat. But Brendan Ryan’s throw from his knees to home for a force play pulled catcher Jesus Montero slightly off the plate, allowing Jason Kipnis to score the winner in a 5-4 victory for the Indians.
With the game tied at 4 in the bottom of the ninth, Mariners manager Eric Wedge called on set-up man Oliver Perez to keep the game there.
“He’s the guy we want out there right there,” Wedge said. “We were obviously saving Wilhelmsen to take the lead.”
Perez, who came in with a 1.08 earned-run average and hadn’t allowed a run in 14 of his 16 appearances this season, gave up single on a 0-2 pitch to Kipnis to start the inning. No. 2 Cleveland hitter Asdrubal Cabrera tried for a sacrifice bunt, but failed in two attempts. Perez, ahead in the count 0-2, couldn’t put Cabrera away. The former Mariners prospect didn’t bite on two pitches out of the strike zone and then turned on an inside fastball, yanking it off the wall in left for a double.
With runners on second and third and no outs, Wedge had Perez intentionally walk Nick Swisher to load the bases and set up force plays at every bag and then called on rookie Yoervis Medina to pitch to right-handed hitting Mark Reynolds.
Medina got Reynolds to hit a soft grounder to short. Ryan made a diving stop on the ball in the grass and fired to home from his knees. The ball bounced in front of the plate. Montero stretched to field the ball off the bounce and in the process pulled his foot off the base as he made the catch.
“I thought the throw beat the runner,” Wedge said. “But (Montero) came out a little bit early and came off the plate. It was a great play by Ryan.”
It’s not a normal play for a catcher, and Montero looked a little unsure how to play it.
“Brendan made an unbelievable play,” Montero said. “I was trying to touch the plate, but the throw was so far out. I tried hard.”
Ryan thought he had made the difficult play.
“I wasn’t sure what happened,” Ryan said. “I haven’t seen the tape. What can you say really? I did the best I could. I put everything I had into that throw.”
Even if Montero makes the play, the chances of the Mariners getting out of the inning were slim.
“You have to feel good if we get out of that inning, we’d have quite a bit of momentum,” Ryan said. “Yeah, bases are still loaded, but maybe we get another ground ball and get a double play and get out of the inning.”
In the search for positives for the Mariners, the fact they even got the game to the bottom of the ninth was an accomplishment.
Trailing 4-2 and down to their final out, Raul Ibañez ripped a solo home run to right field against Indians closer Chris Perez to cut the lead. It was Ibañez’s sixth homer in seven games.
Justin Smoak, who had just one home run this season, then jumped on a 1-1 fastball from Perez and hit a line-drive homer over the wall in right-center field to tie the game.
“It felt good to tie it up,” Smoak said. “I’d been battling all day. I was just doing anything to get on base right there, and I got one good there.”
If the two runs in the ninth were improbable for the Mariners, the two runs they got in the eighth inning could be viewed as a minor miracle.
Ryan, he of the .163 batting average, ripped a two-run homer over the left-field wall into a hard-blowing wind off Indians starter Zach McAllister. It was Ryan’s first home run of the season and the 16th of his career.
“I didn’t think it had any chance,” Ryan said. “I’m never one to home run trot on anything. I was just hoping it would get to the wall.”
The Mariners played from behind the entire game. Starter Joe Saunders gave up a run in the first inning to extend his road struggles.
Saunders allowed runners in every inning but pitched his way out of jams in the second, third and fourth innings. In the fifth, he gave up a solo homer to Mark Reynolds and then surrendered two more runs in the sixth.
“I’m going to sacrifice a live chicken before my next road start,” Saunders deadpanned. “Just some bad breaks. They made some good swings on some good pitches.”
Saunders, aware of that the team’s bullpen was overworked, gave the Mariners 6ª innings. It took him 120 pitches to do it.
“I would have gone 150 if they needed me to,” he said. “That was everything humanly possible I had to keep us in the game.”
Saunders’ replacement – Danny Farquhar – kept the deficit at 4-0, pitching 2† scoreless innings.
“It was a great job coming back,” Wedge said. “Saunders battled and was tough today; Farquhar did a great job of coming out; and you don’t see that happen very often – hitting a couple of solo shots off a closer.”