Mariners manager Eric Wedge explained his seventh-inning decision to pull Jason Vargas with his pitch count at 103. Alexi Casilla was up next, having entered with a .409 batting average against left-handers and .198 average versus righties.
He’d already singled off Vargas in a prior at-bat and Wedge wasn’t going to roll the dice again.
“That guy’s hitting .400 right-handed versus .200 left-handed in that situation,” Wedge said. “He’d already had a knock and (Vargas) had pitched a good ballgame. We’ve worked hard to try to keep him strong and I think it’s paying off for us…we’ve got our best guy, with the exception of (Brandon) League down there in (Tom) Wilhelmsen who’s strong and ready, he just didn’t have the command that he typically has.”
Nor did he have the awareness he needed when it mattered most.
Wilhelmsen wound up walking Casilla and pinch-hitter Trevor Plouffe to load the bases with one out in what was still a 2-0 game. Pitching coach Carl Willis and catcher Jesus Montero both told Wilhelmsen in a subsequent mound conference to look to throw home on any comebacker hit his way.
But when Denard Span did just that, Wilhelmsen admitted his first thought was: “All right. We’re going to get two outs. That’s what I wanted.”
Maybe, but it’s not what he’d been told to do moments earlier.
“I just had a brain fart,” Wilhelmsen said. “And a pretty important one. It cost us the ballgame.”
Indeed it did cost his team the game against an opponent that hadn’t scored in 25 innings before Wilhelmsen gifted them the run.
This will all be dismissed as the growing pains of a young club yet again and the truth is, these are what rebuilding can often bring. Those who wanted to see the kids played are getting to see it in all the good, bad and ugly stages.
“I know he’ll learn from that,” Wedge said.
Just as the Mariners will learn to bury an opponent once they have them down.
Four times, the M’s got the leadoff hitter on tonight. But only once did they score.
Once that 2-0 lead evaporated, the M’s whiffed five times the final three innings, Their last 11 hitters went down in order.
Losing close games can be a consolation of sorts. It’s not like the M’s are getting blown out of every game during this streak of seven straight losses.
But Wedge said the squad will have to learn to do more with the eight-to-10 hits they keep getting every game. That was part of today’s lineup shuffling. Maybe more will be in order.
Vargas said the team isn’t taking much solace in the close games.
“I mean, a loss is a loss regardless of whether it’s 10-0 or 1-0,” Vargas said. “It’s almost harder to take the close ones sometimes because you feel like you give so much and there’s really no reward.
“We need to turn things around right now,” he added. “This isn’t going to cut it, that’s for sure.”