Reassessing the Mariners after an epic meltdown
By Jim Moore
Where were you when the meltdown happened? Watching at home? Listening on the radio?
And what did you do after the Red Sox scored six runs in the ninth inning Thursday night to beat the Mariners 8-7? Shake your head in disgust? Slam your fist through a wall?
Imagine how manager Eric Wedge, recuperating from a mild stroke, felt while watching the game from his Mercer Island home.
I was at my kids’ baseball game so I followed the Mariners game on my phone. At first, I just got periodic updates. After seeing that Henry Blanco gave the Mariners a 7-1 lead with a grand slam in the fifth inning, I didn’t feel the need to look at my phone very often. The next time I checked my phone, the Mariners led 7-2 and come to find out, Shane Victorino had hit a solo home run in the eighth to slightly narrow the gap. There was no cause for alarm.
But then in the ninth, it all fell apart as you know. I kept looking at my phone in disbelief.
A bullpen collapse for the ages left the Mariners with an 8-7 loss that capped a three-game sweep at the hands of the Red Sox. (AP)
Tom Wilhelmsen, Oliver Perez and Yoervis Medina couldn’t hold a five-run lead. And if you throw in Charlie Furbush, they couldn’t hold a six-run lead.
Afterward, Perez and interim manager Robby Thompson talked about the frustration of not being able to get three outs. Hey, guys, forget three, you couldn’t even get two!
As bad as that inning was, I truly believe that if the Mariners had led 15-2, the Red Sox would either still be batting as I type this sentence or already have won the game, 16-15. That’s the way things were going. How David Ortiz struck out to make the only out is beyond me.
Thompson took some of the blame because he signaled to the bullpen with his left arm instead of his right, forcing him to bring in Perez instead of Medina in the ninth. It sounds like all he did was point to the bullpen with his left arm to indicate that he wanted a reliever to come in. He didn’t specify which one he wanted, but because he pointed toward the bullpen with his left arm, that meant that Perez had to come in.
What a dumb rule. If he’s walking to the mound and the bullpen is to his left, it’s only natural to point with his left arm. And even if it’s a mistake, couldn’t the umpire say: “OK, you can bring in the right-hander if that’s who you want.” Red Sox manager John Farrell said he wouldn’t have had a problem with it if Medina had come in instead of Perez. Whatever the case, if this is a hard-and-fast rule, it needs to be changed.
But honestly, it probably didn’t matter. Medina’s been terrible lately. He gave up three home runs in two games against the Twins last weekend. If he had been allowed to come in, the Mariners likely would have lost the game quicker than they did.
It felt like the worst loss in Mariners’ history, and Lord knows there are a lot of contenders for that title.
Maybe it wasn’t worse than the 15-14 defeat at Cleveland in 2001 when the Mariners led 12-0 and 14-2. Or when Mo Vaughn hit a grand slam off of Paul Spoljaric to cap a seven-run ninth and give the Red Sox a 9-7 win on April 10, 1998.
So now it’s the day after, and I feel like an idiot. Again. For believing in the Mariners. For thinking they could be playoff contenders.
They’re 50-58, 13 games behind the A’s in the American League West and 10 behind the Indians in the wild-card race.
All of a sudden, now I wish they’d been sellers at the trading deadline. All of a sudden, Jack Zduriencik’s and Eric Wedge’s jobs are in jeopardy again.
We were all hoping for a 3-3 road trip at least, and now they have to sweep the Orioles with their worst three pitchers starting for that to happen.
And how will they respond after losing in 15 innings Tuesday night and the way they lost Thursday night? The last time they were blindsided like this, in Cleveland in May, they were then smacked by a combined score of 19-1 in two games against the Angels.
There can’t be a team in baseball with worse luck than the Mariners, who have lost 17 games in the opponents’ final at-at, including eight in walk-off fashion.
Where do they go from here? The easy answer: Baltimore. Aside from that, your guess is as good as mine.
The Go 2 Guy also writes for his website, jimmoorethego2guy.com, and kitsapsun.com. You can reach Jim at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @cougsgo.