Perhaps it shouldn’t be surprising that the Seattle Mariners couldn’t complete the series sweep of the Texas Rangers on the Fourth of July holiday at Rangers Ballpark.
After all, the numbers weren’t really in their favor.
The Mariners have yet to sweep a series this season, not even a two-game series. And the last time they swept a series here in Arlington, it was Sept. 26-28 of the magical 2001 season.
That’s 12 years.
So when former Mariner Adrian Beltre blasted two homers off of Seattle starter Hisashi Iwakuma and the Mariners’ offense – particularly hitting with runners in scoring position – was non-existent, it resulted in a 5-4 loss.
It shouldn’t have been unexpected.
Stunning? Not so much.
Five times this season, the Mariners have entered the final game of a series with a chance to complete the sweep. Five times they’ve failed. The last two times the Mariners’ have had their second best starter in Iwakuma (7-4) on the mound. But it still hasn’t mattered.
It wasn’t like the Mariners didn’t have their chances to end the disappointing streaks. But the inability to produce when it mattered most killed any hope. The Mariners banged out 14 hits, but only scored four runs and stranded 13 runners on base.
“That’s the difference in the game right there,” manager Eric Wedge said. “I felt we put up some pretty good Abs, obviously, and had some hard outs. Kendrys (Morales) was up there a couple times and lined out twice with runners in scoring position. That worked big against us, but we’ve got to do a better job with runners in scoring position.”
The Mariners (37-48) had runners reach base in every inning but the first, and were still scoreless until the sixth.
Texas took a 1-0 lead in the second inning when Beltre crushed an Iwakuma fastball to left-center for his 15th homer of the year and 361st of his career.
Seattle tied it in the sixth as Kyle Seager scored on Ian Kinsler’s throwing error on a double play attempt.
The Mariners took the lead in the seventh when Raul Ibanez continued rage against the dying light of baseball mortality, blasting his 21st homer of the season – a two-run shot to right off of lefty Neal Cotts.
Ibanez fell behind 0-2 immediately, but battled Cotts back to 2-2 and used a little prior day’s knowledge to get the big hit.
“He threw a fastball up which he struck me out on yesterday,” Ibanez said. “I was just trying to not to do too much, and I was able to get the fat part of the bat and get it in the air to right field, and it worked out.”
It was Ibanez’s seventh homer this season off of a left-handed pitcher. He didn’t hit a home run against a lefty all of last season.
The Mariners seemed on the verge of a monster inning. Morales followed with a walk and Kyle Seager doubled off of Cotts. But with runners on second and third and one out, the Mariners failed to score. The Rangers brought in Josh Lindblom, who struck out Justin Smoak, and then intentionally walked Endy Chavez to load the bases and get to 41-year-old Henry Blanco. Blanco swung at the first pitch he saw and lined out to end the inning. The veteran catcher personally stranded eight runners on the day. Wedge chose not to pinch hit in that situation despite having plenty of left-handed bats on the bench.
Did he consider it?
“No, because he’s still out there with Iwakuma,” Wedge said. “You don’t want to change your catcher with your starting pitcher in the seventh inning. They’ve been together the whole time. You’ve got to keep those two together.”
Iwakuma never made it out of the seventh inning.
He gave up the second blast to Beltre – this one a screaming line drive to center field – that cut the lead to 3-2. The homer moved Beltre past Joe DiMaggio on the career homer list with 362. Iwakuma then gave up single to A.J. Pierzynski and walked Lance Berkman, which ended his day. The Mariners bullpen couldn’t stop the bleeding.
Charlie Furbush gave up a seeing-eye single to Moreland up the middle that scored Pierzynski to tie the game. Elvis Andrus gave the Mariners a lead with a sacrifice fly to score Berkman from third.
It looked like the Mariners would get out of the inning down just 4-3. Leonys Martin hit a ground ball that Nick Franklin tried to turn a double play by tagging out Moreland on his way to second and firing to first. But Moreland knocked the ball out of Franklin’s glove and everyone was safe. It allowed Ian Kinsler to single home another run to push the lead to 5-3.
“He did the right thing, he just didn’t hold onto the ball,” Wedge said of Franklin. “The guy was right there. You just tag him, but you’ve got to secure the baseball. He just dropped it. That was obviously a big play, but there were multiple big plays.”
That extra run proved huge for Texas. Ibanez notched hit his fourth hit of the night – an RBI single in the eighth – to cut it to 5-4. Seattle even got the tying run on base in the ninth when Endy Chavez had dropped in a two-out single off of Joe Nathan. But pinch hitter Michael Saunders was rung up on a called third strike to end the game.
“The difference again, not that we weren’t good offensively tonight, but you just can’t leave that many runners on in a one-run ballgame and expect to win,” Wedge said.