Seattle closer Carson Smith took a 2-1 lead into the ninth inning, but threw two wild pitches, allowed a fatal stolen base and then gave up a walk-off single to Kurt Suzuki as the Mariners lost to the Minnesota Twins 3-2 Saturday night at Target Field in Minneapolis (box score). The Mariners (47-58) fell 12 games behind the Houston Astros (beat Arizona 9-2) in the AL West and eight back for the second wild-card spot.
Entering the ninth, the Mariners led 2-1 on Nelson Cruz’s 28th home run in the sixth inning and seemed in good shape after 1-2-3 innings in the seventh and eighth by Tom Wilhelmsen and Fernando Rodney. But Miguel Sano opened the ninth with a leadoff double. After Smith fanned Trevor Plouffe for the first out, he threw a wild pitch with Torii Hunter at the plate that sent pinch runner Shane Robinson to third. After an intentional walk to Eddie Rosario, Carson unleashed another wild pitch that scored Robinson to tie. Rosario then swiped third unchallenged and Suzuki won the game with a single to left.
The seventh was a killer. They had runners (Jesus Montero, Brad Miller) at second and third with no outs and couldn’t score. The Mariners went 0-for-6 with runners in scoring position. Cruz went 2-for-4 and has hit 21 of his 28 homers while playing right field.
Top prospect Ketel Marte, who started at second for the second consecutive game, recorded his first major league hit, an infield single in the fifth inning. C Mike Zunino went 0-for-3, ending his 10-game hitting streak.
Seattle starter Mike Montgomery allowed one runm on a wild pitch in the fourth inning, on four hits in six innings with six strikeouts and two walks. He twice escaped trouble, getting out of a situation with runners at second and third in the third inning, and working his way out of a one-out triple in the fourth, without allowing a run. Montgomery lowered his ERA from 3.20 to 3.07.
Smith’s blown save was his second. Smith’s two wild pitches came after throwing two in his first 39 appearances.
“I was trying to find out why he threw me out of the game, and his explanation was that I showed him up from the dugout. It’s unfortunate. He showed himself up by not making the right call” — Seattle manager Lloyd McClendon, explaining his ninth-inning ejection by first-base umpire Mike Muchlinski.
“I have to get ahead of the hitters and pound the zone and I didn’t do that. I didn’t have the action today that I needed and that’s what it comes down to. I didn’t throw strikes” — Smith
“I thought he made some great pitches, but a couple just got away from him” — Zunino on Smith’s two wild pitches in the ninth inning.
The Mariners have seven walk-off losses and 18 defeats in an opponent’s final at-bat . . . Sixty of Seattle’s 105 games have been decided by two or fewer runs . . . After three days off due to a strained abdominal muscle, Robinson Canoe returned to the lineup Saturday as Seattle’s DH and knocked in the first run. Cano is scheduled to return to second base in a three-game series at Colorado Monday . . . Logan Morrison, removed from the game Wednesday, did not start due to a deep thumb bruise, but came on as a pinch runner in the seventh inning and finished the game at first base. McClendon said Morrison’s injured thumb could be a nagging issue for the remainder of the season.
The series finale is at 11:10 a.m. Sunday. Hisashi Iwakuma (2-2, 5.10) will throw for Seattle against RHP Mike Pelfrey (5-7, 3.92).