Mariners come up short in 14 innings despite solid pitching
Seattle barely managed any offense after the seventh inning in a 4-3 loss to Tampa Bay
Seattle Times staff reporter
Seattle @ Tampa Bay, 4:10 p.m., ROOT Sports
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — About the only guy who kept the Mariners in this game as long as they lasted said his teammates should be proud.
Little-used Mariners relief pitcher Josh Kinney somehow made it through 2-1/3 heart-pounding extra-innings of Seattle's longest game this season Friday night, desperately waiting for his hitters to produce something. But the Mariners could barely get a base runner over the final seven frames of this 4-3 loss in 14 innings to the Tampa Bay Rays on a night when hitting was at a premium.
Tampa Bay finally broke through in the 14th when Carlos Pena singled off Tom Wilhelmsen and scored on a Ben Zobrist double down the right-field line. The throw from Ichiro in right missed cutoff man Dustin Ackley, and Pena was just able to beat the bouncing ball to the plate.
Afterwards, Kinney said his team gave it their all in the 4-hour, 47-minute contest.
"Unfortunately, we didn't score a run," Kinney said. "Somebody was going to score at some point. You see it all the time in games like this. Something happens like that. Tom (Wilhelmsen) looked great tonight.
"We had our chances, too. We hit some balls hard on the screws and didn't get hits. It just happens. You've got to admire our team. We've been playing well on this road trip and battling. We just have to keep it going ... all in all, we played gutsy ball as a team tonight."
Wilhelmsen had breezed through the 13th inning on just six pitches after taking over from Kinney. But Pena then lined a ball that dropped in front of Ichiro in right field, then Zobrist's smash up the line just got by the glove of first baseman Justin Smoak.
Those remaining from the announced crowd of 14,143 at Tropicana Field leaped to their feet in celebration as the Rays poured from their dugout to mob Pena at the plate. The teams combined for 32 strikeouts in the game — with Seattle whiffing 17 times — to set a Tampa Bay franchise record.
The Mariners had opened the scoring in the first inning on an Ichiro triple and a Casper Wells double, but then managed just three more hits the next 13 innings against Rays starter James Shields and the Tampa Bay bullpen. Mariners starter Hisashi Iwakuma, in his best outing in the majors, managed to carry that 1-0 lead through to the sixth before B.J. Upton hit a tying home run to left field.
"I think it's the best I've pitched," Iwakuma said, through interpreter Daisuke Seikiba. "I was able to make good pitches with every pitch I was throwing."
The Rays scored once more in the sixth to jump in front 2-1. But then Kyle Seager notched a single in the seventh — Seattle's first hit since the opening frame — and Carlos Peguero hit a mammoth 429-foot homer to right-center off Shields to put the Mariners back up 3-2.
Iwakuma left the game at that point — having struck out seven batters — positioned to win his first game as a big-league starter. He'd kept the Rays off balance with a well-spotted fastball, confounding splitter and sharp breaking pitches.
But the Rays tied it up off Steve Delabar as a Desmond Jennings double and an Upton single in the bottom of the inning to saddle Iwakuma with a no-decision. From there, both teams settled in to a pattern of offensive futility — with the Mariners not getting any base runners and the Rays stumbling with the multitude of chances they had.
Tampa Bay saw the leadoff batter get to second with none out in the 10th and 11th innings on a walk and a stolen base, only to have Kinney get out of it. Kinney got Hideki Matsui to fly out with the bases loaded to end the 10th, then escaped the 11th on a strikeout, flyout and groundout.
Kinney hit Zobrist with one out in the 12th and watched him steal second as well. But Kinney got out of that inning with a pair of strikeouts.
Wilhelmsen breezed through the 13th, then saw John Jaso notch Seattle's first hit since the seventh with a one-out single in the 14th. Jesus Montero walked to put two on, but Jake McGee came on and struck out Seager, then got Smoak to pop out.
"That's what you play for," Wilhelmsen said afterward. "You like those games, those are fun. Maybe not for half the spectators that left early, but those are what games are about. A competitive battle and grind, grind, grind it out."
But the Mariners simply couldn't grind out another run.
"Our pitching staff did a great job," said manager Eric Wedge, who didn't have Shawn Kelley available because he's been ill the past two days. "We used everybody."
Wedge planned to have Wilhelmsen work through the 15th if needed, then would have turned to catcher Miguel Olivo to pitch the 16th.
"We played pretty well defensively to keep the score where it was," Wedge said. "But we just couldn't do anything offensively in extra innings."
Geoff Baker: 206-464-8286 or email@example.com. On Twitter @gbakermariners