They were almost assuredly chants to honor him. But perhaps they were desperate calls to rescue the Mariners and their tepid offense from being shut out by one of their own.
In the final game of the weekend series that celebrated Edgar Martinez’s induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame, the familiar chants of Edgaaaaarr!! Edgaaaarrr!! were volleyed back and forth between the fans on the third-base side and the first-base side of T-Mobile Park during the eighth inning Sunday.
Edgaaarr! (Help the Mariners)
Edgaaarr! (Please help them score just one run)
Edgaaarr! (Just come pinch hit!)
With a crowd of 24,219 in attendance, they rang throughout the building.
If only the Martinez of yesteryear, or even the Martinez of now, could’ve grabbed one of his many Louisville Sluggers, slathered on pine tar and stepped to the plate. He’d fix things. Or at least give Seattle some hope.
But there was no helping the Mariners against Rays starter Ryan Yarbrough, who is, yes, a former Mariner prospect who was traded to Tampa along with Mallex Smith and a minor-leaguer for lefty starter Drew Smyly, who never pitched a game for the Mariners due to injury. Yarbrough, a gangly lefty, delivered the best game of his career against the team that traded him away, pitching the Rays to a 1-0 victory and a three-game series sweep.
“Rough series, losing sucks,” manager Scott Servais said. “It does. We played competitive games and were right in them with a team that’s competing for the wild card. They are driven by pitching and we knew that coming into the series and they made big pitches and shut us down.”
Yarbrough pitched 8 2/3 shutout innings, allowing three hits with no walks and eight strikeouts on 99 pitches.
“Yarbrough threw a heck of a ballgame,” Servais said. “It’s a different arm slot. There’s a little funkiness to it with a little deception to it. You have to give him credit. He threw a ton of strikes. He threw his breaking ball and got that cutter over any time he needed it and located really well.”
It could’ve been a somewhat historic outing for a Rays franchise that hasn’t had a complete game from one of its starters since May 14, 2016. That’s the longest drought in Major League Baseball. Heck, it was just the second time a starter had pitched into the ninth inning.
But instead of letting Yarbrough face one more batter and try for a three-hit shutout, Rays manager Kevin Cash, doing what he’s always done since taking over for Joe Maddon in 2014, pulled his young lefty with two outs in the ninth inning.
As Cash called time and walked to the mound, Yarbrough looked stunned. The words were an expletive followed by “come on,” which were easily lip read. He then fired his glove up to his face, covering his mouth to hide the displeasure and more words flowing from him that likely weren’t fit for print.
“A little angry,” he told reporters after the game.
But he wouldn’t tell reporters what he said in his glove or if the words were directed at Cash. He handed the ball to the manager barely looking at him and then stalked off the mound, shaking his head in disgust multiple times. Even Mariners fans in attendance booed the decision.
“Not happy,” Cash said in an understatement of Yarbrough’s reaction. “Which is what you would expect and you would probably want to a degree. (He) wants to be out there, wants to finish off the game. I don’t think any of our pitchers like when we take the ball from them. Sometimes those decisions come about. But certainly appreciative of how well he threw the ball today.”
Apparently the fear of facing Domingo Santana, who was 0 for 2 and had reached on a catcher’s interference, in three plate appearances off Yarbrough was too great to take the risk for Cash. To be fair, Santana is hitting a scorching .149 (11 for 74) with three homers and 36 strikeouts in his past 22 games.
Cash gave the ball to closer Emilio Pagan, also a former Mariner, to get the final out. Servais knew that Cash might make that switch even with two outs. He had Omar Narvaez ready to pinch hit. Narvaez hit a sinking liner that Eric Sogard gloved off one hop in shallow right field and fired to first for the final out.
“The thought process, simply, was that inning we knew Santana was coming up there and we liked the matchup better with Pagan,” Cash said. “Very difficult decision obviously given what [Yarbrough] provided for us, but it felt like it gave us the best chance to win.”
The Mariners had plenty of praise for Yarbrough. Smith was his college teammate and lived next door at Santa Fe Community College.
“He lives off deception,” Smith said. “He did a really good job of mixing things up and switching things up every count. He was extremely effective. I was hoping he would get to try and finish, but I guess not.”
The Mariners’ best threat at scoring came on a deep drive off the bat of Austin Nola in the seventh inning. It looked like a possible homer or at least a double. Instead former Mariner Guillermo Heredia made a brilliant catch, grabbing the ball just as he went face and chest first into the wall.
“Unbelievable play, we’ve seen him do that before,” Servais said. “He can finish plays. That’s not an easy ball. You are right up against the wall and you know you are going to hit it. I was hoping Austin had just enough to get it over the wall because if it stays in the yard, Guillermo has a pretty good chance to catch it.”
Wade LeBlanc took a tough loss, pitching seven innings after a scoreless inning from opener Sam Tuivailala. LeBlanc allowed just one run on five hits with no walks and three strikeouts.
The Rays’ lone run came in the fourth inning when the bespectacled Sogard broke a scoreless tie by launching his 13th homer of the season into the right-field seats. LeBlanc left a 3-2 fastball over the middle of the plate. It was one of the few mistakes LeBlanc made on the day and Sogard didn’t miss it.
“One bad pitch and it cost me,” LeBlanc said. “It was just right down the middle.”