Mariners’ manager Don Wakamatsu put it best: “No loss is easy, but obviously when you give it up in the ninth, it stings a little more. It hurts quite a bit.”
No sugar-coating this one — it belongs in the pantheon of excruciating losses by the Mariners this season. Off the top of my head, I can think of the back-to-back walkoffs by Texas off Brandon Morrow, and the one against Anaheim in which they blow a large lead, with David Aardsma coughing it up in the ninth for one of his three blown saves.
Aardsma has been excellent for the most part this year, and Wakamatsu alluded to over-use as a possible cause of this outing, while declaring his continued belief in the closer.
“This guy has been the heart and soul of our ballclub,” Wakamatsu said. “He’s been consistent. That’s why he’s been at the top of our league in ERA for relievers. If we tack on a couple of runs, it’s a little different situation; the pressure is maybe not there. We talked about the amount of appearances and innings the bullpen has sustained, and sometimes you’re going to have some bad ones. This guy has been our rock, and done a tremendous job for us.”
Here’s what Aardsma had to say:
“The ball was just a little flat tonight. You saw Konerko almost hit one out. Obviously, Ramirez (shown above rounding the bases after his three-run homer in the ninth) got that split and really rode it out. It happens.”:
On bouncing back: “Yeah, that’s the one big thing I keep saying: John Wetteland has done a good job, talking to me about it and not letting it affect me. I’ve already talked to him about what happened tonight. I’ll take it, learn from it, and go out next time.
“I was just a little flat. It’s going to happen sometimes. Sometimes your ball’s jumping, sometimes it’s not. You saw when I made pitches down, they didn’t do anything with it. When they were up, they hit it.
On Doug Fister: “I feel bad for him, and I feel bad for the team. I’m going to keep going out and doing my job. It’s worked so far. He’s going to have a lot more opportunities to get wins. The way he threw tonight, he’s going to have plenty. In awhile, that first one’s going to be nothing.”
“You know what? I wish I had gotten him the win. Our team needed it just as badly.”
And now onto Fister, who was magnificent. He came ever so close to not giving up any hits at all in six innings. The lone hit was a broken-bat squibber by Jim Thome, one of his very few infield hits. It just happened to go to the left side that was vacated by the Mariners’ shift. As it was, Jack Wilson raced over and nearly threw out Thome. That was the only hit Fister gave up. He walked four, uncharacteristically, and hit a batter.
“Doug Fister did an unbelievable job for his major-league debut,” Wakamatsu said. “We talked about the lack of walks in the minor leagues. When you get to the big leagues, it’s a little different, more pressure, some better hitters laying off pitches. But he battled, gave us six strong inning, We couldn’t have asked for any more. Hust did a tremendous job.
“You look up at the radar gun and you don’t see the mid-90s. But what you do see is the angle to his pitches. You see a little bit of life as the ball goes through the zone. That’s a good-hitting club over there. He kept them off balance, jammed some guys. His ability to throw off-speed stuff adds a couple miles per hour to his fastball.
“You just don’t know,and for me, the maturity — he got in some jams, and stepped off the mound and was able to compose himself. One hit in six innings against this club, you couldn’t have scripted it any better.”
Well, um, yes you could.
Here are some quotes from Fister:
On whether he would have scripted it this way: “No. I was just focusing on coming out and going about my business the right way.”
On when his heart stopped pounding: “I didn’t focus on the fans or the adrenaline. I went out there and focused on making a pitch time and time again. That’s the way I approached it.”
On what surprised him: “Nothing surprised me. It was baseball. ”
On his reaction to the home run that cost him a W: “That’s baseball. There are always one or two pitches that determine a game, and unfortunately it didn’t go our way this time.”
On the standing ovation he received when he walked off the mound in the sixth: “I wasn’t sure I was coming out at that point, and I was still f;ocused on what I needed to do, so I didn’t really notice it. I kept going about my business.”
On approaching the day: “I tried to keep it the same, just like it was in Tacoma. Go about my business the way I have been taught.”
On what was working for him: “I tried to focus on hitting my spots with my fastball and trying to get ground balls. Great defense behind me is what did it.”
On the four walks: “That’s from trying to do too much and trying to make the perfect pitch instead of what I have been doing. I have to re-evaluate what I was doing and go from there.”
I imagine Fister was swirling with mixed emotions — elation over his performance, mixed with regret over the team’s loss. His next time out, it won’t get any easier. He faces the Yankees on Sunday.
Photo by Elaine Thompson, Associated Press