You could almost feel this coming Saturday afternoon after the Seattle Mariners bungled away a gift-wrapped opportunity to secure a walk-off victory over the Texas Rangers in the 10th inning.
The Rangers opened the 11th with six consecutive hits against rookie reliever Rob Rasmussen in an eight-run explosion that produced an 11-3 victory for Texas at Safeco Field.
That missed chance in the 10th had the Mariners playing what-could-have-been after a two-base error put the winning run in scoring position with no outs.
“Obviously, that proved to be the game,” said Kyle Seager, one of three players to strike out against Texas closer Shawn Tolleson.
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“You get a guy on second with no outs. We had three shots at him, and weren’t able to come through.”
Momentum swung like a tank’s gun turret.
Adrian Beltre started the winning rally with a leadoff single into center against Rasmussen, the sixth Mariners’ pitcher used in the game. Mitch Moreland followed with a single up the middle.
Beltre moved to third.
Josh Hamilton punched an RBI single into right, and the Rangers led 4-3. Singles by Elvis Andrus and Rougned Odor added another run and loaded the bases with no outs.
“I just didn’t execute,” Rasmussen said. “Our bullpen did a great job. We picked up six innings before I came in there. I needed to pick us up, and I just flat out didn’t execute.
“Especially on the breaking ball. I left a lot of them up.”
Chris Gimenez capped Rasmussen’s nightmare by hammering a two-run double off the left-field wall for a 7-3 lead. In came Joe Beimel, who yielded a two-run single to Delino DeShields.
Gimenez’s double closed the book on Rasmussen (1-1) at six runs without retiring a batter. His ERA jumped from 2.45 to 17.18.
“He elevated,” manager Lloyd McClendon said. “He’s probably been overworked a little bit. I think he was three out of five (games pitched) coming into this ballgame. For a young kid, that’s tough.
“We had no bullpen left. Beimel was on fumes. He had nothing left. You talk about a gutsy guy. He came in and tried to get us out of that inning.”
Rasmussen insisted he wasn’t fatigued.
“I felt great,” he said. “We had the day off (Thursday), and I had (Friday) off, too. Two days off is plenty. It’s just a matter of execution on my part, and I just didn’t get it done.”
The Rangers weren’t done, either.
Prince Fielder drove a Beimel breaking ball over the left-field wall for a two-run homer. Eight runs.
Now … as to what could have been:
The Mariners squandered an enormous opportunity in the 10th inning after left fielder Ryan Strausborger dropped Seth Smith’s deep leadoff drive for a two-base error.
Mike Zunino failed to execute a sacrifice before swinging through a 95 mph fastball from Tolleson (4-2) that was up in the zone on a 1-2 count. Tolleson then struck out Seager.
“I’ve faced him before,” Seager said. “He’s got good stuff. He’s a closer for a reason. He jumps at you. The ball explodes on you. He threw me a good slider that got me in a hole.
“Then, he threw me a good changeup to beat me.”
The Rangers chose to load the bases on intentional walks to Nelson Cruz and Robinson Cano. The strategy worked when Jesus Montero took a third strike at the knees.
“We weren’t going to face Cruz or Cano,” Texas manager Jeff Bannister said. “Two guys that we’ve seen earlier in the year that beat us. These are accomplished guys, they’re dynamic.
“I trust Shawn to be able to throw strikes, I trust his stuff against Montero. It set up about as good as we could get. It’s not exactly how you draw it up, but I trust Tolleson.”
The Mariners’ bullpen, until the 11th, was in lockdown form after bailing out lefty Mike Montgomery, who exited after a three-run fourth inning. He gave up three runs on four walks and five hits while throwing 82 pitches.
“Did you like what you saw?” McClendon asked. “Bad outing. I’m very disappointed.”
David Rollins pitched two scoreless innings before Mayckol Guaipe and Fernando Rodney each followed with a scoreless inning. Tom Wilhelmsen worked around one-out runners in the ninth and 10th innings.
Then the tsunami hit.
“We should have won the ballgame,” McClendon said. “We failed to get the bunt down to get him over, and then the rest is history. It just goes to show you: This is a game of results.
“They walked the bases loaded and got away with it.”