The Mariners took a 4-2 lead into the bottom of the ninth Saturday at Minnesota, seemingly poised to win three in a row for the first time since May 1-4. They certainly didn’t count on closer Tom Wilhelmsen unraveling, but he did in a major way, walking the first three batters he faced before surrendering a two-run, walk-off triple to Ryan Doumit.
Minnesota’s 5-4 win snapped Seattle’s (24-32) two-game winning streak and negated a great performance by Jason Bay, who hit two home runs, and another effective start by Aaron Harang, who allowed one earned run on four hits in 6.0 innings with four strikeouts and two walks.
Wilhelmsen simply couldn’t find the plate. His first mistake was walking the Twins’ No. 9 hitter, Pedro Florimon, on five pitches. Then he walked leadoff hitter Eduardo Escobar. Wilhelmsen threw only three strikes with his first 12 pitches. He went to a full count on Joe Mauer, but missed again with his fastball, walking the All-Star catcher to load the bases.
Josh Willingham came close to belting a grand slam but got under a Wilhelmsen fastball and lofted it into left. The sacrifice fly plated Florimon. Then Doumit came up and crushed another fastball into the gap in right center, scoring Escobar and Mauer.
Seattle has five walk-off losses among its 32 defeats, and Saturday’s ranks high among the most galling giveaways.
In the first, Bay and Kyle Seager belted back-to-back home runs off Minnesota starter Kevin Correia, marking the third time this season that Seattle has produced consecutive wallops. Raul Ibanez and Michael Morse did it in the eighth inning against Houston April 9, and Ibanez and Justin Smoak did it in the ninth inning at Cleveland May 18.
The Twins got a run back in the second when, after a walk to Chris Parmelee, a fielder’s choice and a throwing error by Brendan Ryan, Parmelee scored on a fielder’s choice by Aaron Hicks and Harang’s throwing error.
Doumit doubled and reached third on a ground ball in the sixth, and scored on a Brian Dozier single, tying the game at 2.
Bay hit eighth homer in the seventh, a solo shot, and Ibanez had an RBI single, scoring Seager, who had singled, for a 4-2 Seattle lead. That’s where it stood when Wilhelmsen gave it away.
The Mariners conclude the series Sunday with Kennewick native Jeremy Bonderman, just called up from AAA Tacoma, making his first start since Oct. 1, 2010. Bonderman, who had Tommy John surgery, will oppose lefty Scott Diamond (3-4, 5.22 ERA).
The Mariners return to Safeco Field Monday night to begin a three-game series with the Chicago White Sox.
NOTES: Jesus Montero will miss 4-6 weeks following surgery to repair the meniscus in his left knee. The surgery will be next week. The Mariners optioned Montero to AAA Tacoma May 22. In seven games for the Rainiers, Montero hit .250 with three doubles, 1 triple and 2 RBIs. Montero hit .208 in 29 games for the Mariners before they shipped him out . . . Manager Eric Wedge said that he’s confident Justin Smoak will be able to return to the lineup Sunday. Smoak has missed seven games since straining an oblique muscle . . . Michael Morse, nursing a strained quadriceps, probably won’t return until the Mariners return home, starting Monday. Morse has missed three games . . . Kendrys Morales finished May with a .343 batting average, five home runs and 23 RBIs. He had 16 extra-base hits, most in a month by a Mariner since Jose Lopez had 16 in August, 2009 .