Seattle rallies to tie the score as Raul Ibanez homers again, but Cleveland wins it in the 10th.
CLEVELAND — To hear Raul Ibanez tell it, the Mariners are getting the hang of these nailbiter-type contests they keep finding ways to stay in.
Truth be told, the Mariners could have put things away long before they lost, 6-3, to the Cleveland Indians on Friday night on a walkoff homer in the 10th inning. But after the Mariners squandered numerous chances the first five innings, they had to fight to get back in a game Ibanez tied in the sixth with his fourth home run in four days.
The Mariners finally lost it in the 10th when Jason Kipnis drilled a three-run homer to right off Lucas Luetge, capping a rally that began with two out and none on. But Ibanez said afterward that, win or lose, he’s noticed plenty of positive signs from the team both before and during games.
“I think it’s a great attitude,” Ibanez said. “There’s a lot of energy in here before the games and there’s a good, confident vibe on everybody’s part.
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“This team seems to really be coming together nicely and battling,” he added. “Games like that, those (opposing) guys are battling too. And there’s nothing to hang our heads about. We’ve got to keep fighting. And if we keep playing like that, good things are going to happen.”
The Mariners stranded seven base runners the first five innings and 10 total in front of 34,282 at Progressive Field. They were down 3-1 in the fifth with only a Kendrys Morales homer to show on the scoreboard, and things were coming undone for starter Brandon Maurer with two on and one out.
That’s when Asdrubal Cabrera scorched a line drive to right field that Endy Chavez made a nice play on for one out. Chavez then spotted trail runner Kipnis straying too far off first base and made a bullet throw to the bag to double him off.
That break seemed to ignite both Maurer and the Mariners. Ibanez stepped up in the sixth and tied the score with a two-run homer off left-handed relief pitcher Rich Hill. And the Mariners pitching staff would go on to retire 16 in a row from there, right up until the Indians finally got to Luetge in the 10th.
“I think all good teams kind of talk to each other during the game,” Ibanez said of the dugout mood amongst his teammates. “Like ‘We’re going to get this guy’ or ‘We’re going to get these guys today’,” Ibanez said. “And there’s a lot of that going on in the dugout for sure. Guys are staying locked-in and focusing on the win.”
Maurer looked to be done in the fifth inning, with his pitch count climbing up toward 90 and still only one out. But the Chavez double play effort changed that on one pitch and he was allowed back out for a 1-2-3 sixth inning punctuated by two strikeouts.
“That was awesome,” Maurer said of the Chavez catch. “A great play. That helped out huge right there.” And Maurer made the most of it, riding a burst of adrenaline through that sixth inning to cap a 102-pitch effort that marks his most of the season.
“It was better,” he said of his overall comfort level. “Not there yet, but better.” That could pretty much describe his team, now back to two games below .500 at 20-22, as a whole. The Mariners were far from perfect in their execution and allowed the Indians to take over with their speed in the 10th.
Luetge helped them out by walking the speedy Drew Stubbs with two out. Stubbs promptly stole second and then Michael Bourn hit a broken bat chopper to Luetge’s left that got by the pitcher for an infield single.
That put runners at the corners for Kipnis, who fell behind 0-1 in the count, then jumped all over a slider hung by Luetge for a no-doubt blast to right.
“You can ask any pitcher, sometimes the ball just leaves your hand and you think ‘Oh, man!’ and some different words in your head,” Luetge said. “You’re just hoping he pops up and misses it.”
But Kipnis did not.
The Mariners, as mentioned, had missed on a number of opportunities in running up the pitch-count of Indians starter Ubaldo Jimenez.
“We had plenty of chances,” Mariners manager Eric Wedge said. “We’re playing good baseball. We still have to do a better job with runners in scoring position. We’ve got to do a better job of stringing hits together and putting together innings.
“We’ve shown signs at times, of that, but we’ve yet to be consistent with that. That’s why there’s so much reason to believe that we’re going to be a much better offensive club when we start to get to that point.”
Geoff Baker: 206-464-8286 or email@example.com. On Twitter @gbakermariners.