What an opportunity.
More specifically, what an opportunity lost.
The Seattle Mariners blew a five-run lead with a series of miscues – most in the ninth inning – as the Milwaukee Brewers avoided being swept with a 7-6 victory Sunday at Safeco Field.
Seattle led 6-3 entering the ninth.
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“We’ll get back at it tomorrow,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said. “There’s a lot of games left to play.
“But that one hurt a little bit.”
Seemingly anything that could have gone wrong did for the Mariners in the ninth.
One ball went off Leonys Martin’s glove in center field. Another dropped between Martin and left fielder Norichika Aoki, who should have made the catch.
Tom Wilhelmsen surrendered three runs on two homers, the first runs he’s allowed since July 31.
“It’s not often anyone can say they’ve won a game, any one person,” Wilhelmsen said. “But in this line of work, you can say sometimes you definitely lost that game. And that’s the unfortunate part about it.”
Matters became laughable when the Mariners (66-57) could have gotten out of the inning on a fly ball to right fielder Shawn O’Malley. O’Malley threw home to catcher Chris Iannetta to keep Manny Pina at third base. Meanwhile, Scooter Gennett moved within a few steps of third.
Iannetta said he wanted to play it conservatively, so he charged at Pina and lobbed a throw to third baseman Kyle Seager instead of Robinson Cano, who appeared to be calling for the ball at second base. Gennett raced back to the bag safely.
“We don’t want to keep throwing the ball all over the place and have a double rundown going on, especially with everything that had been going on that inning,” Iannetta said. “I think the safe play was to run that guy back to second base.”
The Mariners were three outs from moving a season-best 11 games over .500, closing the gap to five games on the first-place Texas Rangers in the American League West and tying the Baltimore Orioles for the final wild-card spot. Instead, their home winning streak ended at eight games.
“Disappointing – there’s no doubt,” Servais said. “We’ve had a real good streak going here at home. It’s been fun. I thought we did enough offensively. We got to finish it, got to close it out. Unfortunately we just didn’t get it done today.”
Closer Edwin Diaz wasn’t called upon to pitch because he had thrown 34 pitches in a save on Friday. Servais said that was determined prior to Sunday’s game.
That meant Wilhelmsen would attempt to earn his second save this season.
“If you would have said we had a three-run lead going into the ninth and we were going to give it to Tom Wilhelmsen, I would have felt very, very good about it,” Servais said. “It just didn’t work out.
“Wilhelmsen has done an awesome job. He really has for us. He just didn’t quite have it today.”
Keon Broxton led off the ninth with a solo home run — his second homer of the game.
After Ryan Braun struck out and Hernan Perez doubled, Chris Carter hit a tough outside pitch for a two-run homer that was just over Shawn O’Malley’s glove near the right-field wall.
Carter had stopped at second to wait for the umpire to signal it as a home run and not an out after O’Malley had sprinted and leaped into the wall.
“Carter hit a ball off the plate, opposite field, that was away, at Safeco Field for a homer,” Iannetta said. “You don’t normally see that.
“It was ball four.”
It tied the game at 6-6.
Gennett then hit a fly ball off Vidal Nuno between Aoki and Martin two batters later. Aoki didn’t judge the ball correctly and it landed between the two of them for a base hit and driving in the go-ahead run.
“I felt the presence of (Martin) there,” Aoki said through an interpreter. “I felt him coming for the ball.”
Offensively, the Mariners scored a combined 21 runs in the three games this series.
Seattle jumped to a 3-0 lead in the third inning. Ketel Marte drove in Martin, who led off with a ground-rule double that pinballed off the foul pole in the left-field corner.
Seth Smith followedwith the first of two RBI singles in back-to-back innings before Robinson Cano drove in one more with an RBI groundout.
Mariners starter Ariel Miranda hadn’t allowed a hit until Broxton homered with one out in the top of the fourth inning.
The Mariners went and made it 6-1 in the bottom half of the fourth, pounding Brewers starter Matt Garza for three more runs on RBIs from Smith, Cano and Nelson Cruz.
Miranda left with two outs in the sixth inning when Ryan Braun drove in two runs with a ground-rule double, cutting the lead to 6-3.
“I felt like I should have gone a little longer,” Miranda said through an interpreter. “At least complete that inning.”
He had done just enough — with Steve Cishek, Nick Vincent and Arquimedes Caminero pitching 21/3 scoreless innings to set up Wilhelmsen in the top of the ninth.
“We didn’t make the plays and we didn’t get it done in the end today,” Servais said.