Closer Wilhelmsen's nerves hold in tense test | Mariners notebook
The M's acting closer artfully escaped a ninth-inning jam against the Giants.
Seattle Times staff reporter
Tom Wilhelmsen passed another ninth-inning test on Sunday.
The Mariners' acting closer is acting like a guy who wants to stay there. He has not allowed a run in his last 11-2/3 innings over nine appearances, limiting opponents to a .105 average (4 for 38).
The latest of those innings was the ninth on Sunday, which wasn't pretty — Wilhelmsen loaded the bases with one out — but manager Eric Wedge loved the way he worked out of it in a tense, tied game.
"It's big. It's important. It's part of it," Wedge said. "You're going to go through everything when you're pitching that ninth inning. There's nothing you're not going to go through at some point in time, nothing that's not going to come your way. How you handle it more likely than not is going to dictate whether or not you stay there or not. He handled it in a very strong fashion today."
Wilhelmsen first struck out Melky Cabrera, who came into the game leading the National League with a .363 average, on three pitches. How did he do it?
"He missed them," Wilhelmsen said. "I got lucky today. Obviously, he's a great hitter, doing his thing real darn well. I guess I wanted it a little bit more."
Wilhelmsen then went to a full count on Nate Schierholtz before getting a ground out.
"Obviously, that's not what you want to do," Wilhelmsen said of the full count. "But I think 3-2 in my head that I've got it won, and we did. I threw a ground ball."
Wilhelmsen said it was "without a doubt" the most adrenaline he'd felt in a ninth-inning situation.
"It was pretty darned loud, and that's exciting," he said. "There was a great crowd today, and they were on their feet."
Plate umpire Andy Fletcher had to leave the game in the eighth inning when a pitch by Brandon League bounced up and hit him in the right wrist. He suffered a fracture. The rest of the game was worked with just three umpires, with crew chief Joe West moving from second base to behind the plate.
West was involved in some confusion in the ninth inning over the count to Gregor Blanco. He was initially awarded first base on what was actually ball three from Wilhelmsen, but after conferring with the press box, West brought Gregor back to the plate.
"I give him credit; he came in the dugout and called up," Wedge said. "He wanted to make sure he got it right, and he did."
Wilhelmsen's next pitch was a ball, so Blanco went back to first base.
"I guess in that case, you might say the ball never lies," Wilhelmsen said. "I ended up walking him anyway."
• Casper Wells is one Mariners hitter who doesn't mind Safeco Field. He is hitting .346 with two doubles and a homer in 14 games there this season.
• Jesus Montero's home run on Saturday night is now being estimated at 445 feet by the ESPN Home Run Tracker, which has become the standard for home-run distances. That would make it the 10th-longest homer in Safeco Field history, according to available records from ESPN and STATS Inc, and tied for sixth longest by a Mariner.
It would also be the second longest into the left-field upper deck, trailing only Richie Sexson's 448-foot blast on July 27, 2005, off Detroit's Chris Spurling.
Larry Stone: 206-464-3146 or email@example.com