KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Perhaps it was inevitable considering the Seattle Mariners’ season.
When they failed to score in the 10th, 11th, 12th and 13th innings, the possibility of yet another walk-off loss grew with each Kansas City batter.
Reality set in for Seattle in the bottom of the 13th.
Mike Moustakas took advantage of a poor pitch from reliever Chance Ruffin on an 0-2 count – a fastball down the middle – crushing it well over the right-field fence to give the Royals a 7-6 victory in the dying sunlight at Kauffman Stadium.
“It was supposed to be (a) fastball off the plate, and I just left it right down the middle,” Ruffin said.
It was the 11th time this season the Mariners have lost on a walk-off hit and been forced to watch the other team celebrate at home plate. But it was a first for Ruffin at the major league level.
That Ruffin was pitching in that situation was indicative of the Mariners’ bullpen issues. Manager Eric Wedge wasn’t able to use normal setup men Yoervis Medina and Oliver Perez because of excessive use on this trip and
during the season.
With starter Joe Saunders not making it out of the fifth inning, the Mariners needed to use Brandon Maurer, Charlie Furbush, Tom Wilhelmsen and Lucas Luetge before calling on Ruffin, who worked a one-two-three 12th inning.
“The solo shot got us, but I thought Ruffin pitched well,” Wedge said.
Ruffin had not been in a Mariners’ uniform since the 2011 season, when he was acquired as part of the trade that sent Doug Fister to the Tigers. He spent 2012 at Triple-A Tacoma, then started this season at Double-A Jackson before returning to Tacoma in July.
“I felt good,” Ruffin said. “I had command of all four pitches. I love those situations. I love pitching in a tight game like that. I’ve been comfortable pitching in tight games since college. It was a lot of fun being out in that situation. I just made a mistake.”
The Mariners rolled to a 5-0 lead after four innings.
They jumped all over Royals starter Jeremy Guthrie, scoring three runs in the first inning. Kendrys Morales delivered an RBI single and Justin Smoak crushed a two-run homer to right field – his 15th of the season.
Seattle tacked on a run in the third, when Kyle Seager took advantage of a mistake by first baseman Eric Hosmer on a throw from the outfield.
Brad Miller made it 5-0 in the fourth with a sacrifice fly to left field to score Michael Saunders.
And yet, Wedge thought there should have been more runs.
“We had some chances to break it open,” Wedge said. “I like the five runs we scored. We had some other opportunities we didn’t take advantage of. That’s the difference for us offensively.”
Those five runs weren’t enough for Saunders, whose outing fell apart in the fifth.
After getting the first out of the inning, Saunders gave up three straight hits, including a two-run homer to Alex Gordon. Saunders struck out Hosmer for the second out but would never get the third. Billy Butler, who had five hits in the game, singled to right and Salvador Perez followed with an RBI single to left to cut Kansas City’s deficit to 5-3. When Saunders walked Justin Maxwell, Wedge had seen enough,
“Joe made it tough for himself in the fifth inning,” Wedge said. “We tried to give him every opportunity to get that final out.”
Maurer came in and struck out pinch-hitter Carlos Peña to preserve the lead, then pitched a one-two-three sixth inning.
But he couldn’t sustain the success.
He gave up four straight hits to start the seventh inning, including an RBI double by Hosmer and an RBI single by Butler to tie the game.
“You expect Maurer to get somebody out in that situation,” Wedge said. “He’s going to have to learn how get over that hump.”
Furbush replaced Maurer and gave up a sacrifice fly to Justin Maxwell to put the Royals ahead 6-5.
The Mariners appeared to be done.
The Royals turned to left-hander Will Smith, who mowed through the Mariners in order in the eighth.
Then in the ninth, Royals closer Greg Holland had two outs and pinch-hitter Raul Ibañez down 1-2 in the count.
But Holland hung a slider that Ibañez ripped into the right field stands to tie the game at 6.
“I was just trying not to do too much,” Ibañez said. “I got enough of it.”
The Mariners weren’t able to get much more off the Royals’ bullpen over the next four innings, despite having runners in scoring position in three of them. They finished 1-for-10 with runners in scoring position and stranded eight.
Louis Coleman (3-0) picked up the win in relief.Ryan Divish: 253-597-8483 email@example.com blog.thenewstribune.com/mariners @RyanDivish