Seattle bullpen can’t hold lead after batters produce some rallies

Share story

05.05.15 Box Score

ANAHEIM, Calif. — It should have been a victory — with the Mariners celebrating their three-run rally in the eighth inning, complete with some rare production with runners in scoring position.

Instead, they trudged off the field, heads down because they didn’t want to watch the Angels dance and cheer outside of their dugout as rookie Carlos Perez rounded the bases following his walkoff solo home run off reliever Dominic Leone.

There are losses. There are bad losses. There are painful losses. The 5-4 defeat Tuesday night at Angels Stadium was the equivalent to a kick to the ribs — making every aspect of it hurt just a little bit worse.

This wasn’t some dangerous veteran hitter with game-winning hits speckled throughout his career. No, Carlos Perez was playing in his first big-league game. He got a hanging slider from Leone and hit it like an All-Star, sending it into the left field seats.

He became the first player to hit a walkoff homer in his major league debut since Miguel Cabrera did it June 20, 2003 for the Marlins.

“It’s unacceptable, especially after this team is fighting, battling and trying to win games and you come in and give them that,” Leone said. “It’s unacceptable by me. I’ll be the one who wears this one.”

Leone knew he was in trouble the moment the pitch left his hand.

“Coming out, it didn’t feel like the one I wanted to let go,” he said. “As I’ve seen a couple times already this year, hitters make good swings on mistakes. Unfortunately, both (pitches) have been in tight spots, they’ve both been in late-game situations where we need a zero on the board. Right now, I’m not pitching to where I want to be and where the team needs me to be.”

While Leone wanted to wear the defeat, the problems started before he ever took the mound. He came into a tied game. The Mariners had been leading 4-2 just an inning before.

“This was a tough loss,” Seattle manager Lloyd McClendon said. “Anytime you have a lead going into the eighth inning, particularly with our bullpen, you expect to win.”

But the Mariners’ bullpen — a strength last season — has been hit hard by regression and opposing hitters.

Setup man Danny Farquhar coughed up that 4-2 lead in the bottom of the eighth, giving up run-scoring singles to Erick Aybar and Johnny Giavotella.

“It’s definitely upsetting,” Farquhar said. “I thought I got a little unlucky with those ground balls finding the holes. I probably should have made some better pitches and they would have been swings and misses.”

Bad breaks? Sort of.

“We created the breaks for them,” McClendon said. “Anytime you put the tying run on base via the walk, that’s not good.”

Down 2-1 since the second inning, the Mariners appeared destined for yet another defeat thanks to lack of hitting with runners in scoring position when Dustin Ackley struck out looking with the bases loaded to end the top of the sixth. At that point, Ackley had already stranded runners at second in his previous at-bat and the Mariners were running out of chances.

But then a strange thing happened in the top of the eighth — the Mariners got hits with runners in scoring position and a situational execution as well.

With starter Garrett Richards out of the game, the Mariners took advantage of reliever Joe Smith, scoring three runs to take the lead. Robinson Cano led off with a double and later scored on Kyle Seager’s run-scoring single. Logan Morrison followed with a single and Mike Zunino drove in Seager with a ground-rule double to right — his second run-scoring hit of the game. Ackley got a bit of redemption, making it 4-2 with a sacrifice fly to left field to score Morrison from third.

“We showed a lot of fight in that inning,” McClendon said.

It put James Paxton in line for the victory. The big lefty gave the Mariners seven solid innings, allowing two runs on four hits with three walks and four strikeouts.

“He threw the ball extremely well,” McClendon said. “I was very pleased. I thought he battled all night. We put him in a position to win a ballgame and then we went to our bullpen.”

Paxton’s only mistake came in the first inning.

After missing with three consecutive fastballs to start the at-bat to Albert Pujols, Paxton finally threw a strike on the 3-0 count. But he threw it in the wrong spot — right down the middle. Pujols had the green light on 3-0 and knew exactly what to do with the gift from Paxton, blasting it for a two-run homer.

“I put that pitch middle-up and that’s where he crushes the ball,” Paxton said. “I need to execute the pitch.”

The Mariners answered immediately with a run in the top of the second to cut the lead to one run in the second inning. Morrison extended his hitting streak to seven games with a double to right field and later scored on Zunino’s line-drive single to center.