Kyle Seager didn’t realize he had been ejected from Thursday’s game by umpire John Tumpane until he saw manager Lloyd McClendon charging from the dugout in protest.
“My back was to (Tumpane),” Seager said. “I didn’t say anything I haven’t said before but, when I said stuff, I was walking away.”
The ejection came after a called third strike in the fifth inning that resulted in a double play when Robinson Cano was thrown out at second base. The Seattle Mariners trailed 4-3 at the time to the Baltimore Orioles.
“I’d like to say that’s baseball,” McClendon said, “but that’s not baseball. I didn’t think that was warranted. … I don’t know. Maybe (Tumpane) got tired of the Orioles (complaining) about balls and strikes all day.”
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Tumpane did show considerably more restraint an inning earlier when Baltimore’s Alejandro De Aza protested a called third strike. De Aza continued to protest from the bench until Tumpane held up an hand.
In contrast, Seager got a quick ejection — and it left the Mariners puzzled.
“I don’t understand,” said veteran Willie Bloomquist, who replaced Seager at third base. “You can’t even talk anymore. We’re competitors. It’s the middle of a key situation, and you drop an f-bomb.
“Everyone takes it so darn personal. It’s like, ‘Dude, we’re competing. It’s the heat of the moment. It’s nothing personal.’ And quick fuse, boom, you’re gone. That’s a big blow for us. That’s our five-hole hitter.”
The impact of the ejection was evident later in the game. Twice, Bloomquist batted with the bases loaded; both times he failed to get a run home. The Mariners ended up losing, 5-4.
“That’s very frustrating,” Seager said. “I put Willie in a very bad situation there. That’s inexcusable. I need to be there for my team. I need to be in that game. That was really tough on Willie.”
Bloomquist blamed himself for failing to deliver.
“I expect myself to come up in those situations and do more than I did,” he said. “I expect to get it done, but it’s unfortunate to lose a player of (Seager’s) caliber over something that seemed pretty darn quick.
“In the past, it was back and forth before you get tossed. You kind of have an idea of where the line is. Lately, it doesn’t seem like there’s much of a line.”
BACK TO THE SCENE
Felix Hernandez returns to the scene of perhaps the most disappointing start of his career Friday when he faces the Blue Jays at the Rogers Centre in Toronto.
It was there that Hernandez failed to survive a nightmarish seven-run fifth inning in a 10-2 loss on Sept. 23, 2014.
The loss put a dent in the Mariners’ postseason hopes by keeping them three games back in the American League wild card race with five games to go. They finished the season one game behind Oakland.
Hernandez gave up eight runs in 42/3 innings, although an appeal by the Mariners resulted in a scoring change that made four of those runs unearned.
That change permitted Hernandez to win the AL ERA crown when he pitched 51/3 scoreless innings against the Angels in the season finale.
But that poor outing in such a key game likely cost Hernandez in tight balloting for the American League Cy Young Award. He finished second to Cleveland’s Corey Kluber.
Chris Taylor faced a former college teammate making his major league debut Wednesday night in the ninth inning: right-hander Tyler Wilson, whom the Orioles recalled Monday from Triple-A Norfolk.
“From the time I spent with him (at Virginia),” Taylor said, “he was always the team leader and very vocal. He was the guy who all of his teammates looked up to.
“To see him make his debut last night was awesome. He’s worked his butt off for it.”
The Orioles selected Wilson in the 10th round of the 2011 draft, and he spent five years solely as a starter before appearing in relief Wednesday. His first pitch resulted in an out when Taylor popped to short.
“To face a guy that I played a couple years with …,” Wilson said. “I watched that guy get so many big hits, but I’m happy he didn’t get one tonight.”
It appears rehabbing outfielder Austin Jackson, who is recovering from a sprained right ankle, will remain at Triple-A Tacoma at least through the weekend.
McClendon reiterated his hesitancy to have Jackson return to active duty for the upcoming three-game series at Rogers Centre, whose spongy turf is notoriously hard on players’ legs.
Jackson suffered the injury May 3 while running out a grounder at Houston. He entered Thursday’s game at Iowa at 3-for-16 in four games for the Rainiers.
The Mariners travel to Tampa Bay after their series in Toronto. That means three more games on artificial turf, but the surface at Tropicana Field is generally viewed as being easier on the legs than Rogers Centre.
CHANGE FOR THE BETTER
Left-hander Roenis Elias credits an improved change-up for his success this season in compiling a 2.76 ERA in five starts since his April 26 recall from Tacoma.
“Very important,” he said after limiting the Orioles to one run in 72/3 innings Wednesday in a 4-2 victory. “Last year, I had a lot of problems with my change-up. This year, I worked on it.
“I threw my change-up too hard last year. This year, I’m letting the grip work.”
Elias often relied on curveballs in the past, but he said he threw only a handful in his 96-pitch outing against Baltimore. He relied instead on a mix of fastballs and change-ups.
Nelson Cruz reported his former Orioles teammates were impressed.
“Chris Davis told me he was filthy,” Cruz said. “He was dealing, especially with the change-up. He was pounding hitters early with the fastball, and then later in the game, he went with change-ups.”
Catcher Mike Zunino said: “I don’t think I can explain what he got out of his change-up. He worked ahead so well, and his change-up was down in the zone.
“He was able to attack guys, and he got swings and misses and weak fly balls. He had that two-pitch command, with his fastball and his change-up, that you need to go deep into a ballgame.”
Fernando Rodney wobbled a bit Wednesday before closing out the Mariners’ 4-2 victory over the Orioles — and that’s rare against Baltimore.
Rodney is 3-0 with an 0.93 ERA and 18 saves in 19 opportunities over his last 38 appearances against the Orioles dating to 2007. That includes eight for eight in save opportunities and a 1.08 ERA at Camden Yards.
Tacoma shortstop Ketel Marte entered Thursday’s game at Iowa (Cubs) as the Pacific Coast League leader in hits with 55 and ranking second in batting average at .346.
Marte had five more hits than anyone else in the league, and his average was just .0002 behind league-leader Travis Taijeron of Las Vegas (Mets).
It was 23 years ago Friday — May 22, 1992 — that Jay Buhner put down a sacrifice bunt (!) in the seventh inning, and Tino Martinez followed with a two-run single that produced a 2-1 victory over Cleveland at the Kingdome.
How rare was the sac bunt by the Bone? He had 12 over 5,927 career plate appearances in his 15-year career.
The Mariners open a three-game series against Toronto at 4:07 p.m. (PDT) Friday at the Rogers Centre. Right-hander Felix Hernandez (6-1, 2.30 ERA) will face Blue Jays righty Marco Estrada (1-2, 3.55). The game can be seen on Root Sports and heard on 710 ESPN