Trailing 7-2 entering the ninth, the Mariners remarkably rallied for six runs to take an 8-7 lead, but couldn’t protect it and lost to the White Sox 9-8 Friday night in Chicago on what was ruled a walk-off double by Paul Konerko, ending their eight-game winning streak.
Seattle right fielder Eric Thames actually snagged Konerko’s fly ball in deep right center for what would have been the second out, but crashed into center fielder Michael Saunders and spun into the wall. The ball jarred loose and the White Sox plated the winning run from second.
The Mariners seemed dead when they entered the ninth. But Jesus Montero led off with his 14th home run, and slowly the Mariners crept back. After Montero’s dinger, off Philip Humber, who threw a perfect game against Seattle April 21, Dustin Ackley hit a two-run single to make it 7-5. Kyle Seager’s sacrifice fly, aided by a throwing error, allowed in two runs to tie. A John Jaso single gave the Mariners an 8-7 lead.
But closer Tom Wilhelmsen, erratic in recent outings, couldn’t tolerate the good fortune. He allowed an infield hit, a walk and an RBI single to Kevin Youkilis on a 2-2 pitch to tie at 8. After walking Steve Wise on four pitches, Wilhelmsen threw a fastball that Konerko lofted to right center. Thames and Saunders arrived at the ball nearly together on th warning track. Thames caught the fly, but his arm and body hit Saunders, which knocked Saunders down and caused Thames to fall over Saunders into the wall. The ball flew 50 feet out of Thames’ glove into an empty center field, Wise racing in from second with the winning run.
The Mariners starting pitching, so effective since the All-Star break, unraveled early when Adam Dunn cracked two home runs off Seattle starter Jason Vargas and Alexei Ramirez added a third.
Had the Mariners defeated the AL Central leaders (they entered the game with 11 consecutive victories against that division), they would have secured the franchise’s first nine-game winning streak since May 27-June 5, 2003.
Vargas, trying to become the first Seattle lefthander to win 14 games in a season since Jamie Moyer won 21 in 2003, just wasn’t up to the task, lasting only four innings and 74 mostly misplaced pitches.
The three homers allowed by Vargas were his most in a game since the Arizona Diamondbacks dinged him for five in Phoenix June 20.
The Mariners had 1-0 and 2-1 leads, but couldn’t withstand Chicago’s offensive barrage or solve the splendid pitching of Jake Peavy, who stymied Seattle after the second inning.
Peavy worked 7.0 innings, allowing two runs on seven hits with five strikeouts and no walks. He ran his career record against Seattle to 6-1.
The Mariners scored first when Saunders singled home Ackley, who opened the game with a double. But Dunn homered off Vargas on a 1-0 count in the first to tie.
Trayvon Robinson, who hit nine home runs at AAA Tacoma before his recall, cracked his his first homer of the year for the Mariners in the second inning for a 2-1 Seattle lead. But Vargas, who won six of his seven previous decisions, gave it back when Alex Rios singled, stole second and scored on a single by Alexei Ramirez.
Dunn victimized Vargas again in the third with a two-run shot on a 1-2 count that scored Kevin Youkilis, who walked on a full count. That homer was the 28th allowed by Vargas, six more than his previous career high of 22 set last year (team record is 44 by Jamie Moyer in 2004).
After Dayan Viciedo opened the fourth with a single, Vargas yielded his 29th long ball, a two-run shot by Ramierez that made it 6-2 and put Peavy into cruise mode. Ramirez, Chicago’s No. 8 hitter, drove in three runs on 2-for-3 night.
That blow chased Vargas, who allowed six earned runs on seven hits. That marked Vargas’ shortest outing of the season (4.1 at Arizona June 20).
Josh Kinney replaced Vargas in the fifth and got into an immediate jam, finally allowing a run-scoring sacrifice fly to A.J. Pierzynski to make it 7-2. That’s the way it stood until an amazing ninth inning.
RHP Blake Beavan (8-7, 5.00) starts for the Mariners Saturday against LHP Jose Quintana (5-2, 2.76). The series concludes Sunday afternoon with RHP Kevin Millwood (4-10, 4.29) facing RHP Gavin Floyd (9-9, 4.56).
NOTES: Mariners RHP Carter in the seventh inning (sixth career appearance) hit 100 mph on the radar gun seven times. He topped out at 101 mph twice . . . Ackley (3-for-4), T Robinson (3-for-4), and Montero (2-for-4) had multi-hit games . . . Ackley’s two hits lifted his average to .231 . . . Montero is hitting .435 in his last 15 road games.