ANAHEIM, Calif. — Raul Ibanez’s ability to make history could not prevent the Mariners from exceeding their loss total from last year.
Ibanez tied Ted Williams’ record for the most home runs hit by a 41-year-old player in one season during the Mariners’ 6-5 loss to the Los Angeles Angels on Saturday night.
The defeat, the Mariners’ 11th in the past 13 games, ensures that they will exceed last year’s total of 87 losses.
Ibanez tied Williams’ record with his 29th homer this season — and the 300th of his career — on the same swing in the ninth inning. On an 0-1 count against Angels closer Ernesto Frieri, Ibanez deposited a fastball into the right-field stands.
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Williams hit 29 home runs in 1960 for the Boston Red Sox.
“Obviously, Ted Williams is the greatest hitter who ever lived; I am not,” Ibanez said. “To be in that type of company means I’m old, I guess.”
The defeat also nullified a gritty pitching performance from Joe Saunders, who retired 16 of 18 batters in one stretch and tied his career best of nine strikeouts while throwing a season-high 125 pitches in seven innings.
Yet Saunders (11-16) sustained his third consecutive loss and his eighth in his past 10 decisions.
“I can’t really put it into words how frustrating this has been,” Saunders said of his season. “Even tonight, I felt like the results really didn’t show how good I threw.
“It’s been one of those years. I think I might go 22-5 next year, so watch out.”
But Saunders’ inability to put hitters away proved costly in the second inning.
Los Angeles had the bases loaded with one out when the left-hander forged an 0-2 count on Grant Green, hitting eighth in the Angels’ lineup. But Green worked the count full, then hit a three-run double down the left-field line.
Again, Saunders built an 0-2 count on the next hitter, Andrew Romine. Again, the hitter worked the count full. Romine then lined a single past second baseman Dustin Ackley to drive Green home and give the Angels a 4-0 lead.
“That was the game, right there,” Saunders said. “I don’t think I was trying to be too fine. I just kept pounding strikes and attacking the hitters. I was trying to get them to chase early.”
The left-hander then began his streak of dominance, which only Collin Cowgill ruined.
After Romine’s run-scoring single, Saunders retired the next six batters before Cowgill lined his second home run over the center-field fence in the fourth.
Saunders responded by retiring the next eight Angels, then Cowgill ended that streak in the seventh by hitting a triple to left field. Two batters later, Cowgill stole home.
The Mariners brought the tying run to the plate in the eighth.
Seattle combined three hits, an error and a sacrifice fly to score two runs in that inning.
Ackley’s single brought Franklin home and Almonte to the plate as the potential tying run.
Almonte’s sacrifice fly drove in Brad Miller, but Seager struck out to end the inning.
After Ibanez’ s homer in the ninth, Frieri retired the next two hitters for his 36th save.