By Shannon Drayer
The last time Tom Wilhelmsen was on the mound facing the Indians with runners on base in the ninth inning, disaster struck.
A run up with two down and two on, the tying run scored on a ball he misplayed. He picked up his first blown save of the year and the Mariners took their third walk-off loss of the series. The Mariners lost three games they had all but won and a fourth they could have won.
It was on their minds heading into Monday’s game as it was brought up in pitchers’ and hitters’ meetings. Wilhelmsen didn’t need to be reminded, however.
“Those were tough games,” he said after the Mariners’ 2-1 win and his 22nd save of the season. “We were playing good ball and then we got there and it just kind of ripped out a piece of our chemistry and our soul for a long time, seriously. It’s nice to win a game like this, a tight game, and just be on top. We sure don’t forget it”
And how can they as that seemed to be the turning point of the young season. Heading into the series opener on May 17 the team was flying high having just taken a series from the Yankees in New York and finding themselves one game within .500. Four straight losses in Cleveland followed, and then a completely uninspired two-game series loss in Anaheim where they were outscored 19-1. They went from one game under .500 to eight games under in just eight days.
For the next month they would exchange wins and losses. They would not win three straight until the current winning streak they are on, which is now at seven. A team meeting was called and having a winning attitude was addressed. The fact that it needed to be addressed gives a hint about what Wilhelmsen was talking about when he mentioned the chemistry. The Cleveland series was a blow. That blow is now in the rearview mirror.
On Monday Wilhelmsen found himself in the ninth inning against the Indians once again with a one-run lead and runners on first and third and two outs. This time he did not have a chance to make the final play as Lonnie Chisenhall deposited a changeup safely into the glove of Michael Saunders in right field. It wasn’t a walk-off, but it was a win. A win and separation from the most painful series of the season.
Eric Wedge update
In his postgame comments, Robby Thompson, who managed the game in Eric Wedge’s absence, said Wedge was spending the night in the hospital after suffering a dizzy spell during batting practice. He will undergo more tests on Tuesday.