Brandon League looks out of his own for Mariners
Closer gets booed after giving up three runs to Los Angeles in the ninth
Seattle Times staff reporter
Angels @ Mariners, 4:15 p.m., Ch. 13
A dejected Brandon League admitted he still isn't getting his pitches to go where he needs them to with a game on the line.
In the case of this latest blown save and Mariners defeat Friday night, he couldn't even get a throw to third base to go where he needed it. And that made all the difference in a 6-4 loss to the Los Angeles Angels in a game League left serenaded by boos.
The key play of the ninth inning was a two-base throwing error by League when he tried to nab the lead runner at third on a bunt play. That brought the tying run home, and an ensuing two-run single by pinch-hitter Howie Kendrick helped hand League his third blown save in the past five attempts.
"I thought if I made a good throw then I had a chance to get him at third," League said. "But it went into left field. Then, it's like all hell broke loose. I don't know how else to explain it."
The Mariners will seek explanations after a night in which they led most of the way in front of 23,517 at Safeco Field. Justin Smoak had matched Albert Pujols swing for powerful swing, hitting a two-run homer off starter Ervin Santana and driving in all four of Seattle's runs.
Pujols, though, got the Angels back to just a run down with a three-run homer off Blake Beavan on an 0-2 fastball in the sixth. Beavan left after seven innings with the lead, but then the bullpen took over and League again fell apart.
He saw Mark Trumbo line a fastball into right-center field for a leadoff single, then walked Alberto Callaspo to put two on and set up the bunt by Erick Aybar. After the error tied the score, Kendrick jumped on another early fastball from League for the decisive single.
"The balls are up," League said. "I'm not getting ground balls. That's the bottom line. If they're taking the pitch, it's a strike. But they're jumping on the first fastball and they're up and it's unacceptable."
Mariners manager Eric Wedge said he and pitching coach Carl Willis will look into what's going on with League before making any further decisions. Wedge didn't want to say whether he'd need to see League first perform in a non-save situation before sending him back out to close another game.
"You can't just make a move without having somebody else take on that role," Wedge said. "Brandon League is our closer. We've got to get him going. We've got a lot of young kids down in that bullpen. But Carl and I will continue to talk about everything.
"The most important thing obviously is to win ballgames here," Wedge said. "We're not going to make a reaction decision right after the ballgame."
Wedge said League's command issues and the walk to Callaspo once again had a big impact. League has walked 11 batters so far this season after giving out only 10 free passes all of last year.
"That's been one of his issues," Wedge said. "When you do that, you're going to put yourself up against it, especially with one-run saves."
The Mariners had numerous chances to blow things open early against Santana, who walked six batters the first three innings. But it was still only a 2-0 game at that point after a run scored on a Smoak ground out in the first inning, then another on his single following Ichiro's double in the third.
But it was only after Santana issued a seventh walk — to Kyle Seager — that Smoak really made him pay in the fifth, jumping on a slider out over the plate and sending it over the right-field wall.
"I've been feeling better at the plate," Smoak said. "There were some guys on base tonight and I was able to put the ball in play and get some hits with guys on base."
The Angels weren't able to do the same against Beavan until the one bad pitch he threw to Pujols in the sixth. Pujols drilled the 0-2 fastball over the wall in right center to turn a 4-0 game into a 4-3 contest.
"At 0-2, you've just got to make a better pitch," Beavan said. "It wasn't a very smart pitch to that guy with guys on base. The two times before, I'd gotten him with a slider. I think he was just hoping I'd throw a fastball there and not a slider.
"So, I kind of did him a favor by throwing a fastball."
Not as big a favor as League did the Angels by throwing a curveball to third on the bunt play. The Mariners now will have to figure out where they go from here in the ninth.
Geoff Baker: 206-464-8286 or email@example.com.
On Twitter @gbakermariners.