Like so many of the Mariners’ 86 losses this season, late-inning failure from the bullpen was the ultimate undoing.
In the penultimate game of the 2015 season, the Mariners treated the 24,448 fans that showed up to Safeco Field on Saturday night with some free baseball.
Though about an eighth of that number remained when Oakland’s Marcus Semien crushed a 3-1 fastball from reliever J.C. Ramirez over the wall in left field in the top of the 13th inning for a two-run homer, providing the difference in a 7-5 loss for the Mariners and ending a four-hour plus marathon between two teams going nowhere.
It was Seattle’s 23rd extra-inning game of the season — 13 of them losses.
And like so many of the Mariners’ 86 losses this season, late-inning failure from the bullpen was the ultimate undoing.
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Given a 5-4 lead to hold in the top of the ninth, Tom Wilhelmsen couldn’t close out a win, blowing his second save since taking over closing duties. Wilhelmsen walked Billy Burns and hit Mark Canha with a pitch to start the top of the ninth. A wild pitch moved them into scoring position and a sac fly from Brett Lawrie tied the game at 5, sending it into extra innings.
To be fair, Seattle got excellent relief work from Tony Zych (three scoreless innings), Mayckol Guaipe, Logan Kensing and Carson Smith (combined three scoreless innings) to set up Wilhelmsen for the save.
It was necessitated after Roenis Elias delivered a forgettable start to close out his season, never even registering an out in the third inning. He was charged with four runs on seven hits with three walks and no strikeouts.
Oakland scored three of those runs in the first inning. Elias gave up back-to-back singles to put himself in trouble. Facing the dangerous Danny Valencia, Elias fell behind 2-0 and grooved a changeup. Valencia jumped on the mistake, driving it over the wall in center field for his 18th homer of the season and a 3-0 lead for the A’s.
A well-timed double play helped Elias escape the second inning without any runs. In the third inning, he loaded the bases on a walk, a single and a walk. At that point, he was lifted after 50 pitches.
Bases loaded and no outs and facing All-Star catcher Stephen Vogt was less than ideal for reliever Tony Zych. But he limited the damage, allowing a run (which was charged to Elias) to score on a fielder’s choice and then getting out of the inning without any more runs.
The Mariners were able to take a large chunk out of the lead in the bottom half of the inning against A’s starter Sean Nolin. Robinson Cano, who has been playing through a sports hernia since late July, continued to put up numbers. With runners on first and second and two outs, Cano yanked a 1-0 changeup into the seats in right field for his 21st homer of the season. The three-run shot trimmed the lead to 4-3.
Down a run, the Mariners loaded the bases in the bottom of the sixth inning. They were able to tie the game on Jesus Sucre’s double play up the middle. But Seattle didn’t settle for one run in the prime scoring opportunity. Ketel Marte dumped a single up the middle off of reliever Arnold Leon for a 5-4 lead.
The Mariners honored the winners of their minor-league organizational awards before Saturday’s game.
Jesus Montero and slugging outfielder Tyler O’Neill of Class A Bakersfield shared the Player of the Year honors. Montero hit .355 with a .966 OPS and 18 homers and 85 RBI for Class AAA Tacoma. O’Neill hit .260 with an .874 OPS and 32 homers and 87 RBI for the Blaze.