Mariners Insider

Red Sox 8, Mariners 7 – the worst loss of the season

Post by Ryan Divish on Aug. 1, 2013 at 9:14 pm with 8 Comments »
August 1, 2013 11:01 pm

They’ve lost games by dropping the final out of the game at first base. They’ve lost games on towering walk-off home runs. They’ve lost on seeing-eye walk-off singles. They’ve blown leads and games at home. They’ve melted down in the ninth inning on the road. They’ve done it nine innings and the night before they lost in 15.

And none of those awful, punch-to-the-gut losses will be as bad as what the Mariners endured on Thursday night at FenwayPark.

Seattle got a stellar start from Felix Hernandez and a grand slam from 41-year-old back-up catcher Henry Blanco, and went into the bottom of the ninth inning with a 7-2 lead.

And they lost.

Call it a choke or a joke or just typical fare for this season, but the Mariners’ bullpen imploded and seemed largely helpless as the Red Sox scored six runs in the bottom of the ninth, culminating with Daniel Nava’s bases loaded walk-off hit deep to center to clinch an improbable 8-7 win.

“It was a well played ball game by us up until that last inning,” acting manager Robby Thompson said. “We just didn’t get the three outs that we needed.”

It was the Red Sox’s major league leading 11th walk-off win this season conversely it was the Mariners’ league-leading eighth walk-off loss. Though to the Mariners and their fans, it feels more like the 80th such loss.

“It hurt a lot,” Hernandez said. “This series was a tough one. Those guys were fighting.”

So how did it happen? Most of the Mariners still aren’t sure. The ninth inning was supposed to be an afterthought. They had a five-run lead. Even against a team as good as the Red Sox and even in hitter-friendly Fenway, it shouldn’t have been difficult.

But Tom Wilhelmsen made it that way.

The Mariners’ closer was brought in for the non-save situation to get a little work. He hadn’t thrown in three days and Thompson wanted him to get an inning to stay sharp.

“It was a good time to get him back out there,” Thompson said. “It didn’t work out.”

Wilhelmsen was anything but sharp.

He walked Nava to start the inning, and then gave up a single to Ryan Lavarnway. With runners on first and second, Brock Holt doubled to left field to score a run and cut the lead to 7-4. Wilhelmsen then walked Jacoby Ellsbury. At that point, Thompson had seen enough.

And for the second time this season, Wilhelmsen’s status as the closer is uncertain.

Despite having six saves in his last 10 appearances, he’s has been anything but dominant. In those 10 outings, only twice has he had clean innings. He’s allowed 11 hits and eight runs with nine walks over that span.

Things only got worse when Thompson went to pull Wilhelmsen.

After calling timeout, and heading from the dugout to the mound, Thompson thought he signaled for right-hander Yoervis Medina, who was warming in the bullpen along with lefty Oliver Perez. Thompson said he pointed to the bullpen with his left arm and then tapped his right arm with the left hand – his signal he wanted the right-hander.

“Normally, when I go to whoever I want, I tap,” Thompson said simulating the motion.

However, home plate umpire David Rackley saw Thompson pointing with the left-hand as a signal for Perez. Medina, who was jogging in, was sent back to the bullpen and Perez was forced to come in the game.

Crew chief Gary Darling stepped in and squashed Thompson’s protests.

“Gary said you made a motion with your left hand, but I said I wanted to go to my right arm,” Thompson said. “They didn’t see it that way. We wanted to go to Medina there. And then Ollie was the next guy.”

Perez was just as confused in the bullpen.

“(The umpires) said it was the lefty but I saw (Thompson) signal for the righty,” Perez said. “I’ve never had that happen to me before. But I was ready.”

The umpires ruling shouldn’t have mattered. Perez is equally adept at getting out right-handers as he is left-handed hitters. And the Mariners simply needed outs of any kind with a four-run lead.

Perez couldn’t get the outs.

He gave up a hard ground ball from Shane Victorino that just got past Nick Franklin at second to score two runs. Dustin Pedroia followed with a single to left to score Ellsbury and cut the lead to 7-6.

“I was trying to go away because I know those guys were looking for something to just pull,” Perez said. “We almost had Victorino on the ground ball. That could have been the inning.”

Perez came back to strike out David Ortiz to get a much-needed out.

Thompson then finally got to use Medina to face the right-handed hitting Johnny Gomes.

It looked as though Medina might get the Mariners out of some trouble. He fired a 2-2 fastball on the outside edge of the plate. Rackley called it a ball. Medina and Blanco were both stunned at the call.

“I think it was a strike,” Medina said. “It was right on the plate. It was a good pitch. The umpire said, no. I don’t know why.”

On the ensuing 3-2 pitch, Gomes lined a single up the middle to score Victorino and tie the game at 7-7.

Medina then walked Stephen Drew to load the bases, setting up Nava to be the hero. Nava jumped on the first pitch he saw from Medina and hit over the head of a drawn-in Michael Saunders to clinch the win and send the Red Sox into the type of celebration the Mariners have watched far too many times this season.

The absurdity of the loss completely overshadowed what happened in the first seven innings.

Hernandez was his usual stellar self. With a crowd of 35,866, Hernandez shut down the Red Sox, limiting them to just one run over seven innings, giving up six hits and striking out eight while walking two.

“He went out there and was Felix, and did his job,” Thompson said.

Hernandez got plenty of run support.

The Mariners got a run in the first inning when Brad Miller tripled to lead off the game and scored on Kendrys Morales’ RBI single. They added a run in the third on Justin Smoak’s RBI single to right.

The game turned into a supposed laugher in the fifth inning. Seager tripled and scored on Morales’ single. But the big and unlikely hit came later after the Mariners loaded the bases.  Blanco yanked a Ryan Dempster fastball down the left field and line over the Green Monster for his second grand slam of the season and the third this year.

And yet it wasn’t enough.

Hernandez handed over a 7-1 lead to the bullpen in the eighth. Charlie Furbush gave up solo homer to Victorino to start the eighth that cut the lead to 7-2. It stayed that way until the debacle that was the ninth inning.

“Felix did everything he can, we just didn’t get it done,” Perez said of the bullpen. “We just couldn’t get three outs.”

Leave a comment Comments → 8
  1. Epic meltdown. What didn’t go wrong in the ninth? Even bad luck, inches and umpires had a part in it…but it should never have been to begin with. On top of all the other issues with the team, the bullpen is a real mess. Wilhelmsen is incomprehensible. Even if he is just coming back to reality after coming from nowhere last year, he’s starting to look like Josh Johnson…someone who just doesn’t belong in the majors right now.

  2. dave8557 says:

    The 100 pitch philosophy for Felix is what cost the Mariners the most. The reason Felix will never win 20 games is because he has to come out in the 7th inning or after 100 pitches for most games. It seems only Aaron Harang is capable of going 9 on this team.

  3. Yeah, I disagree completely. Wilhelmsen and Co. had to get three outs and a five run cushion. They failed. This whole notion of pitchers being iron men … It’s not happening anymore Dave, especially for a guy they have that much invested in. There is no reason to leave him in with that large of a lead. It would be dumb.

    You’ve ranted about pitch counts and pitchers not going 150 anymore. This is the way it is. It’s like shouting at the rain drops. It won’t stop them.

  4. wabubba67 says:

    Punch to the gut? No. Judo chop to the Adam’s apple.

    What the hell is that all about with the umpires and the bullpen? Isn’t a manager entitled to signal to the bullpen in any manner that he chooses? Medina and Thompson were on the same page. How can an umpire force the wrong guy into the game? Neither Medina nor Perez had been officially announced, so why can’t Thompson clarify with the umpires about who he wanted before they take the mound without any penalty?

    Sounds like an umpiring crew putting a rookie manager unnecessarily through his paces in a hostile environment.

    Ryan, what are the rules regarding pitching changes at the major league level?

  5. bbnate420 says:

    Felix could’ve thrown 120 pitches though. What’s his high this year? He usually doesn’t get to 110. The bullpen was worn out from the night before. That doesn’t excuse Wilhelmsen though. And he probably pitches the 9th regardless. But maybe they have a 6 run lead and can bring on Furbush after Wilm imploded. He was plain awful and the biggest single reason for the loss. Looked like Perez and Medina were getting squeezed by the ump.

    It doesn’t really matter in the big picture though. I highly doubt this loss keeps them out of the post season. Time to see what some of these guys are made of. Wilmhelmsen has struggled with control the entire year pretty much. I thought he wasn’t quite as sharp even when he had a good ERA early in the year. Ryan, are Wilhemsen’s control issues mechanical or mental?

  6. I really don’t know the rules that well. It seems to be unclear.

  7. wabubba67 says:

    I’ve always thought that the rule for pitchers and pinch hitters (or any substitution) was that the player has not officially entered the game until the home plate umpire signals the PA announcer.

    I dislike umpires with an attitude (but like NWA).

    While managing high school, I happened to read a rule that clearly stated (highlighted even) that the defensive manager was allowed to conference with any player on the field without being charged a conference when the offensive manager initiated the conference by either asking to speak with a baserunner or checking on an injured baserunner. The only caveat is that the defensive conference must end when the offensive conference is over.

    On the same day that I read the rule, I had a player pitching for the first time and he was very nervous. The offensive manager had an injured baserunner at third base and requested time out. I then trotted out to the mound to speak with my pitcher while keeping one eye on third base to see when the other manager was ready to proceed. I was on my way back to the dugout when the umpire informed me that I was to be charged a conference. I argued a bit, but told him that it was a correctable mistake that could be made right in between innings. I then attempted to show the umpire the highlighted section of the rule book that clearly explained the rule in between innings. He refused to even look at it. I then asked him if there were any other rules that he would not be enforcing that day. I deserved to be ejected for that comment, I guess. I left the rule book on top of home plate (bookmarked where the relevant rule was) and instructed my catcher to leave it there for the umpire to pick up. I had to serve a mandatory one game suspension for being ejected. Obviously, I still harbor some bitterness toward umpires with inexplicable arrogance.

    It seems as though Thompson ran into a similar problem last night when common sense could have prevailed.

  8. wabubba67 says:

    I’ve seen a two managers each make multiple substitutions without a pitch being thrown. One has a pinch hitter announced, the other brings in a pitcher. Once the pitcher is announced, the offensive manager has a pinch hitter announced for the the original pinch hitter. The defensive manager then brings in another pitcher for the pitcher that has yet to throw an official pitch in the game.

    It’s been awhile, but I swear that I saw that (or a similar variation) play out on TV when I was younger.

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