Whatever demons are plaguing the Seattle Mariners’ bullpen are now tormenting rookie closer Carson Smith, who stumbled Monday for the second time in three games in a 4-3 loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks
The Mariners had just pulled even on Mike Zunino’s two-out RBI single in the ninth when Smith put the go-ahead run on base with a leadoff walk in the 10th inning to Paul Goldschmidt.
After striking out A.J. Pollock, Smith threw a wild pitch that moved Goldschmidt to second before he walked Aaron Hill. Arizona loaded the bases with one out when Smith hit former teammate Welington Castillo.
“I couldn’t find it,” Smith said. “I couldn’t get in a rhythm today. I wasn’t in the zone. I threw a lot of balls…I tried to make an adjustment. It just wasn’t happening.”
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After Smith hit Castillo, the Mariners replaced Smith with former D-backs lefty Vidal Nuno, who surrendered a sacrifice fly to Blanchet High grad Jake Lamb.
The ball wasn’t hit particularly deep to center field, but Austin Jackson double-clutched before making a throw to the plate. Goldschmidt scored easily.
“I just couldn’t get a grip,” Jackson said.
Neither can the Mariners, who had a chance to win for the fourth time in five games with Hisashi Iwakuma and Felix Hernandez lined up for the next two games against the Diamondbacks.
Instead, the opportunity for some much-needed traction slipped away, and the Mariners hit the 100-game mark at 46-54. They must go 41-21 over their final 62 games to match last season’s 87-75 record.
Smith (1-4) gave up two runs in the ninth inning Saturday in an 8-6 loss to Toronto. The Mariners’ bullpen has five losses in 11 games since the All-Star break.
“At times, guys have done a good job,” manager Lloyd McClendon said. “Listen, when you don’t get the innings from your starters, you going to be overworked and not look good in your bullpen.
“That’s what is happening. We’ve got to get deeper into games with our starters. We’ve got to get some (bullpen) guys some days off.”
This was, presumably, a residual effect because Mike Montgomery worked 62/3 innings before the Mariners went to their bullpen.
Andrew Chafin closed out Arizona’s victory with a scoreless 10th inning for his second save. The victory went to ex-Mariners lefty Oliver Perez (2-1), who yielded Zunino’s game-tying single.
As he did after Saturday’s loss, McClendon said he believed Smith was fatigued.
“We’ve got to get him a couple of days off here,” McClendon said. “We’re spinning our wheels with him, and you can see it. He was flying open and trying to find something. It just didn’t happen.”
Arizona lefty Robbie Ray was positioned for a victory before Zunino’s single after holding the Mariners to two runs and six hits in seven innings before handing a one-run lead to the bullpen.
Randall Delgado rolled through a one-two-three eighth with two strikeouts. Daniel Hudson worked around a leadoff walk in the ninth by getting a double-play grounder.
But Hudson exited after Mark Trumbo’s two-out double.
In came Perez, who walked Logan Morrison. The ball-four pitch got past Castillo, which permitted pinch-runner Chris Taylor to reach third.
Zunino followed with his RBI single, but Perez held the tie by retiring Brad Miller on a fly to center.
“It had the makings of (a great comeback victory),” Zunino said. “Ray threw a heck of a ballgame and was able to keep us off-balance. We just couldn’t pull it out.”
Montgomery was coming off a rough outing at Detroit, when he allowed eight runs in 22/3 innings, and he gave up homers in each of the first two innings in falling into a 3-0 hole.
Thereafter, he steadied and pitched into the seventh inning what, at least, aided an overworked bullpen.
Montgomery threw a career-high 116 pitches over his 62/3 innings while allowing two earned runs and five hits. He walked four and struck out five.
Arizona opened the scoring when Goldschmidt crushed an 0-1 fastball — a 90-mph four-seamer — for a two-out homer and a 1-0 lead in the first inning.
The lead climbed to 2-0 when Castillo, the former 15-day Mariner, turned on an 0-1 fastball with one out in the second inning.
Lamb followed with a walk before the Diamondbacks loaded the bases on singles by Chris Owings and Nick Ahmed.
When Miller booted Ender Inciarte’s grounder to short for an error, everyone moved up a notch and it was 3-0. Montgomery stopped the bleeding at that point.
The Mariners, after hitting into double plays in the first and fourth innings, broke through in the fifth after Trumbo’s leadoff double into the right-center gap.
Morrison followed with an RBI single to left, which broke Arizona’s scoreless streak at 22 innings. Ray struck out the next three hitters, all swinging.
Robinson Cano’s two-out homer in the sixth pulled the Mariners to 3-2. He jumped a first-pitch slider for this 11th of the season and ninth in his past 30 games.