There are nights to forget, and then there are nights like Tuesday.
Seattle failed to capitalize with two runners on and no outs in the bottom of the ninth inning, then turned around and gave up the game-winning run on a balk by Danny Farquhar in the 10th inning of a 4-3 loss to the Texas Rangers.
It was Seattle’s fifth straight loss, all since the return of manager Eric Wedge.
“Today, just a couple mistakes at the wrong time were the difference,” Wedge said. “But ultimately the difference for us was the bottom half of the previous inning. … Those are the differences. That’s the reason you win or lose a ballgame right there.”
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The trouble started in the 10th inning when Ian Kinsler reached with a single and advanced to second on a single from Adrian Beltre. He then stole third on a curveball, sliding ahead of Humberto Quintero’s throw.
“That was the biggest mistake of the inning,” Farquhar said of the stolen base. “Maybe getting a little repetitive with signs, been doing the same thing for a while. I think guys picked up on it and Kinsler saw a curveball was coming. I should have held him on better.”
After getting a second out, Farquhar was called for a balk, allowing Kinsler to jog across home plate. Home plate umpire C.B. Bucknor said, “He was looking in for his sign, and he started up and stopped and moved his left shoulder. Any movement associated with his set position – he doesn’t come and stop – is a balk.”
After watching tape of the play, Wedge and Farquhar agreed with the call.
“I had to go back and look at the video to see it because to be honest, at the time, I had no idea,” Farquhar said. “It was the slightest flinch, but it was a flinch.”
Said Wedge, “It was a balk.”
The Mariners had their chances to not let it reach that point.
Michael Saunders led off the ninth with a sharp single, which brought up Dustin Ackley. Ackley has been one of Seattle’s hottest hitters since the All-Star break and had two hits in the game.
But Wedge elected to have Ackley bunt in order to move Saunders to second. Only, Ackley’s bunt popped in the air, at first looking like disaster, maybe even a double play. But it safely sailed over the head of pitcher Neal Cotts, who initially charged in before backtracking.
With two on and no outs, Wedge had Quintero bunt to advance the runners. But Quintero popped the bunt up, and this time it resulted in an easy out.
“It’s frustrating,” Wedge said. “It’s something we haven’t done a very good job of.”
That left the game in the hands of Nick Franklin and Brad Miller, Seattle’s two young middle infielders. Franklin struck out swinging. So did Miller. A rally that looked so promising ended abruptly.
“I felt like our overall fight was better tonight,” Wedge said. “But it still comes down to key situations.”
The Mariners offense, which had scored just five runs in its previous four games, responded early against Rangers lefty Derek Holland.
Miller and Kyle Seager walked to open the second inning, and Kendrys Morales drove in one run with a double. Justin Smoak drove in another run with a sacrifice fly that gave the Mariners a 2-0 lead.
But starter Hisashi Iwakuma couldn’t hold the lead for long.
Iwakuma gave up three runs in the second inning, but limited that to his only damage in six innings of work.
Franklin Gutierrez immediately responded by leading off the third with a solo home run that tied the score. It was his sixth of the season, but his first in more than two months after spending much of the year on the disabled list.
But the Mariners couldn’t capitalize on their chances late.
Jayson Jenks: 206-464-8277 or firstname.lastname@example.org