Disaster strikes Mariners in 5-3, ninth-inning loss to Orioles
Seattle blows 3-0 lead to lose after two errors by Jose Lopez.
Seattle Times staff reporter
Texas @ Mariners, 7:10 p.m., FSN
Mariners manager Don Wakamatsu said it was a series where "it just seemed to get away from us."
Whatever it is, the Mariners had better find it in a hurry or a Seattle team that had begun to draw attention as a surprise contender could be back in its projected role as middle-of-the-road pretender before the All-Star break.
A shocking ninth-inning collapse led to a second straight loss to the Baltimore Orioles, this one 5-3 in front of 27,040 at Safeco Field on Wednesday afternoon, a bitter way for the Mariners to enter a pivotal four-game series against the Texas Rangers.
"Now is a time we are going to have to regroup a little bit," Wakamatsu said. "But I believe in these guys."
How much everybody else does could be determined in the next four days. The two losses to Baltimore dropped the M's to 4 ½ games back in the American League West at a time when Mariners management is grappling with the decision to play for the present or build for the future as the trade deadline approaches at the end of the month.
"We've went through tough stretches this year," Wakamatsu said, noting the up-and-down nature of baseball. "And the point is we are going to stay strong and stay together and get back on the horse."
They fell off in a big way in the ninth inning Wednesday, blowing a 3-0 lead thanks to four hits and a walk allowed by usually stellar closer David Aardsma — just his second blown save in 19 attempts this season — and compounded by two errors by Jose Lopez.
The most critical error came with the bases loaded, one run in and none out. As Lopez attempted to turn a routine grounder by Nick Markakis into a double play that would have relieved a lot of the pressure, he bobbled the ball and ended up getting nobody out.
"That's one where you have to make a quick throw in order to make the double play, and [you can] forget you have to catch the ball first in order to make one out," Wakamatsu said. "That's a learning process you have to go through sometimes. But he's done a good job for us."
Lopez didn't disagree that he might have gotten ahead of himself on the play.
"All my life I want to make sure I get one first," he said in a hushed clubhouse. "But I do too much on that one, want to make a quick throw to second base, and you see what happened."
Aardsma then allowed a two-run single up the middle by Ty Wigginton to put Baltimore ahead 4-3, and after Seattle finally got two outs, Lopez bounced a throw to first on another grounder to allow the final run.
The errors turned Lopez from hero to goat. He had accounted for all of Seattle's runs on another day when the M's offense didn't do much but looked to be in position to have done just enough. Lopez hit a two-run homer in the first, his 12th of the year, then doubled and scored on an error in the eighth.
"I thought that third run was going to be enough," Wakamatsu said. "Obviously it wasn't."
The Mariners, though, had been playing with fire all game as the Orioles had runners on base in all but two innings until the ninth, including all five innings against starter Jason Vargas, who left after throwing 97 pitches. Baltimore had the bases loaded and no outs in the seventh before Garrett Olson came on to get a strikeout and a double play, a sequence Wakamatsu said was "the biggest inning we've had all year."
But the Mariners couldn't hold on, and next up are the Rangers, who are 5-0 against Seattle this year.
"A lot of this is about momentum," Wakamatsu said. "That's the beauty of having series. You can have a bad one and then come in and have a whole different feel for a club. That's what we're looking for with Texas."
Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or email@example.com
Copyright © 2009 The Seattle Times Company
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