BALTIMORE – So many things went right for the Seattle Mariners that even in the ninth inning, down by a run with two outs, it seemed they just might find a way to win.
First, they had to tie the Baltimore Orioles and Josh Wilson’s slide at the plate came within inches of doing that – until he became the final out of the Mariners’ 6-5 loss, just another road heart-breaker.
It came down to this: Two on, two outs and the outfield playing shallow for Ichiro Suzuki, who singled into left field. Third base coach Mike Brumley had the best view in Camden Yards of what happened next.
“Josh got a good jump and the only way I wouldn’t have sent him is if Corey Patterson got to the ball in left before Josh hit the bag at third,” Brumley said. “Corey charged it hard, but Josh had a little bit of a lead on it.
Never miss a local story.
“Sometimes when you’re not scoring as many runs as you’d like, you push the envelope. I thought this was legit, so I sent him and watched.”
Patterson’s throw to the plate arrived before Wilson, as did the tag by catcher Matt Wieters. Game over.
And the kicker? Not even the Orioles would have believed that ending if asked in the seventh inning.
That was when Felix Hernandez was still in the game.
“I felt like I pitched like me again today,” Hernandez said. “That’s me. I got ahead of the hitters, I got out of a couple of jams. I felt good.”
After 105 pitches and seven innings, manager Don Wakamatsu walked over to Hernandez in the dugout to shake his hand. Felix knew what that meant – he was coming out.
“I kind of went like this,” Hernandez said, leaning away and all but averting his eyes.
“In the sixth and seventh innings, Felix worked hard to get out of trouble and we had a guy in Brandon League who’d been pitching well,” Wakamatsu said. “It was going to be League in the eighth and David Aardsma in the ninth.
“With a four-run lead, it wasn’t a tough decision.”
That lead had been built on a season-high three-home-run game from the Mariners, who got long balls from Ichiro, Michael Saunders and Mike Sweeney – who was the designated hitter even though right-handed pitcher Kevin Millwood was starting.
Baltimore had taken a 1-0 lead in the fifth inning, and it was a classic at-bat from Saunders that seemed to fire up the Mariners dugout that inning. With two outs and Ryan Langerhans at second base, it was Saunders vs. the veteran Millwood.
“He competed,” hitting coach Alonzo Powell said of Saunders. “He fouled off the tough pitches, wound up with a 10-pitch at-bat and then lined a single to tie the game – that was a great at-bat for him.”
It was followed immediately by Ichiro’s first home run and one of his three hits.
“Saunders was aggressive, he was confident and showed a lot in that at-bat,” Wakamatsu said.
By the start of the eighth inning, Felix was out, League was in and the Seattle lead was 5-1.
The first batter League faced was Patterson, who’d gone to spring training with the Mariners but opted out of his minor league deal. Patterson homered to make it a 5-2 game.
League struck out Adam Jones, but the ball skittered away from catcher Rob Johnson. Ruled a wild pitch, it allowed Jones to reach base safely.
“There were two wild pitches that cost us runs today, and that ball in the eighth can’t get by Rob, and he knows it,” Wakamatsu said. “It has to be addressed and will be.”
League took responsibility for what followed.
“All the wild pitch did was put a runner on base,” League said. “I should have gotten us out of the inning and I didn’t. Everything I threw was flat, and I was up with my pitches.”
Another single and a walk loaded the bases. Luke Scott hit League’s 16th pitch of the inning out for a grand slam and 6-5 Baltimore lead.
The Mariners tried to come back in the three outs they had left.
One out into the ninth inning, Wilson was hit by a pitch. Batting for Johnson, pinch-hitter Ken Griffey Jr. walked and was replaced by pinch-runner Adam Moore.
Saunders struck out, which got the game to Ichiro.
Ichiro grounded a ball into left field.
“You’ve got to be positive,” Hernandez said. “After my delivery in my last three starts, I pitched well today. Our bullpen has done a good job all year but this is baseball, and this happens.”
No one knows that better than the Mariners, who are 13-21 overall and 5-11 on the road. Of those 11 losses, nine have come in the opposition’s last at-bat.