Kole Calhoun scored the winning run on a wild pitch by Tom Wilhelmsen in the 10th inning, giving the Los Angeles Angels a 3-2 victory.
ANAHEIM, Calif. — Mike Zunino had just prevented the winning run from scoring with a difficult block.
With a runner on third base and two outs in the bottom of the 10th, he forced his body in front of a spiked curveball from Tom Wilhelmsen, taking it off the chest pad and keeping it in front of him. It drew loud groans from the 38,367 fans at Angels Stadium.
But the echoes of displeasure had barely dissipated when Wilhelmsen fired his next pitch in the dirt and Zunino couldn’t replicate the previous result.
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Despite Zunino’s best effort, Wilhelmsen’s 3-2 changeup bounced in the dirt near the feet of Kyle Kubitza and got under Zunino’s glove and legs, rolling to the backstop.
Kole Calhoun got a good read on the play and sprinted home from third to score the winning run and hand the Mariners’ a 3-2 extra-inning loss.
It was the Angels’ third walkoff win over the Mariners this season. Seattle, which fell to 34-42, has managed to lose in walkoff fashion six times this season.
“It was a tough loss,” manager Lloyd McClendon said. “The guys played their hearts out on an extremely hot day, a very difficult day. It was a tough loss.”
So what happened on that final pitch?
“It was a changeup that cut on me instead of running away,” Wilhelmsen said. “The ball doesn’t usually do that, but it did today. It was pretty costly.”
With runners on second and third, Wilhelmsen wasn’t going to give Kubitza a fastball, knowing a walk wouldn’t hurt him. Up 0-2, he threw two breaking balls and that changeup.
“I just couldn’t get it on my body to stop it,” Zunino said. “When I went down, I thought I got as close I could to squaring it up. He throws one of the harder changeups. You have to shift as quick as you can. I thought I almost got there but I must have been a little bit late getting my glove down.”
The Mariners have found plenty of disappointing and frustrating ways to lose games this season, but the walkoff wild pitch was a new one for them.
That they didn’t lose the game before Kubitza stepped to the plate was a minor miracle.
With the score tied at 2-2 and two pitchers left in the bullpen, Wilhelmsen got the call to pitch the 10th. He put himself into trouble immediately, giving up a single to Johnny Giavotella to start the inning. With Giavotella running on the pitch, Calhoun singled into left to put runners on the corners. At this point, Wilhelmsen’s chances of escaping were slim. He intentionally walked Mike Trout to load the bases.
“You got bases loaded with no outs and Pujols at the plate — that’s not an ideal situation,” said Kyle Seager.
The guys played their hearts out on an extremely hot day, a very difficult day. It was a tough loss.” - Lloyd McClendon
McClendon brought in left fielder Dustin Ackley to play as an extra infielder. The strategy worked. Pujols hit a sharp ground ball to Brad Miller, who fired home to start a 6-2-3 play for two outs and give the Mariners a glimmer of hope of sending the game to the 11th inning.
Realistically, the Mariners were fortunate to even be playing in the 10th inning. They were down to their final out in regulation and headed for a loss. But Seager tied the score, crushing a 1-0 sinker from Huston Street over the wall in right field for his 12th homer of the year, tying the score at 2-2.
Seager’s solo shot was a momentary reprieve for the Mariners’ bullpen that had coughed up a 1-0 lead handed to them from starter Felix Hernandez after six innings of one-hit pitching that included three walks and eight strikeouts. Battling heat cramps, Hernandez was lifted after 96 pitches.
McClendon called on his bullpen to protect the lead. A year ago, that decision wouldn’t have come with much trepidation. But the current version of the Mariners’ bullpen is nothing like last year’s lockdown group.
Two of the first three pitches that Charlie Furbush threw in relief of Hernandez resulted in a hit by pitch, a wild pitch and pinch runner Kubitza standing on second base. Furbush found the strike zone enough for pinch-hitter Daniel Robertson to sac bunt the runner to third base. McClendon called on Mark Lowe to try and salvage the low success-rate situation. Lowe couldn’t do it. Pinch-hitter Erick Aybar looped a single over the head of a drawn-in infield to tie the score at 1-1. Lefty Joe Beimel replaced Lowe and kept the game tied.
But Beimel couldn’t keep the Angels scoreless in the eighth inning. Calhoun gave the Angels a 2-1 lead, punching a single to center.
Fernando Rodney worked a scoreless bottom of the ninth to send the game into extra innings and prolong the inevitable.