The most exciting game of the Mariners’ season brought out a roller-coaster of emotions at Safeco Field Saturday night. The only thing upon which all 42,038 fans could agree after the 9-7 loss to the Angels (box) was that Seattle’s bullpen is a mess. The Mariners gave up a 2-1 lead in the seventh, rallied with a five-run eighth to go ahead 7-6, then gave it back when closer Steve Cishek served up a three-run homer to Albert Pujols with one out in the ninth. Cishek has blown saves in back-to-back games and has three blown saves in 14 opportunities.
In the eighth after 1B Adam Lind tied the score with a two-run double and C Steve Clevenger delivered the go-ahead run with a two-out single, Cishek in the ninth served up a 1-1 pitch that Pujols drilled off the left-field scoreboard for a no-doubt-about-it, three-run shocker.
After starter Hisashi Iwakuma (6.1 IP, 9 H, 4 ER) left the game, things fell apart. It’s a suddenly familiar story. Cishek blew another save after hitting a batter, giving up a single and serving up the home-run ball to Pujols. Set-up reliever Joel Peralta was even worse. The 40-year-old had another forgettable night, the lowlight coming when he served up home runs on back-to-back pitches to Kole Calhoun and Mike Trout in the seventh. Cishek’s role as closer and Peralta’s spot on the team could be in jeopardy if they don’t get things turned around quickly.
Clevenger, playing so starter Chris Iannetta could get a night off, came through in the clutch with the RBI single in the eighth.
In the second inning, Lind hit his first home run of May with a two-run shot that barely cleared the outstretched arm of Angels CF Mike Trout, whose glove went over the fence and appeared to graze the ball.
New Los Angeles starter Jhoulys Chacin, acquired from the Atlanta Braves three days earlier, frustrated the Mariners for most of the night. 3B Kyle Seager had three hits, all of which came with no one on base. 2B Robinson Cano extended his hitting streak to 13 games with an RBI single in the eighth.
There was absolutely no doubt in my mind that I was going to shut the door right there. I just got too aggressive with my slider and I paid for it — the team paid for it.” — Cishek
“Their bullpen is tough. Anytime you can take two games like that, it’s huge, especially against one of the best closers in the game.” – Pujols
Injured relievers Joaquin Benoit and Charlie Furbush each threw simulated games Saturday afternoon, providing hope that the bullpen might get some help in the near future. Furbush could throw another simulated game in Tacoma this week, while Benoit might be activated in the next few days . . . The Mariners made a small adjustment to their batting order, with red-hot SS Ketel Marte moving down from No. 2 to No. 8 and RF Seth Smith moving up. Part of the reason for the move was the presence of Clevenger, who gave the Mariners seven left-handed bats. With Clevenger hitting seventh, the Mariners moved Marte down so that they wouldn’t have six consecutive lefties in the order . . . Leadoff hitter Norichika Aoki went 0 for 3 against Chacin, notable because Aoki had three home runs in 11 career at-bats against Chacin – his highest total against any pitcher and one-eighth of Aoki’s career total for homers (24).
A rapidly filling bandwagon, a date with King Felix, Little League Day and another chance to celebrate Mother’s Day. The Mariners provide several reasons to attend Sunday’s 1 p.m. series finale (“Second Chance Mother’s Day” . . . really?). Hernandez (3-2, 2.27 ERA) is the biggest incentive. He’s scheduled to face the Angels’ Hector Santiago (2-2, 4.07 ERA), who has already beaten Seattle once this season. But based on the first two games of this series, does it really matter who the starting pitcher is?