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July 18, 2012 at 9:39 PM

Even in defeat, Mariners seemed to exude hitting confidence tonight

Billy Butler hit the walkoff homer in the ninth off Josh Kinney on a sinker than ran back across the plate. So, the Mariners take an 8-7 loss in a game they once trailed in 7-3, rallied to tie and then actually had a chance to win late.
This has been quite an offensive display for three straight games here by the Mariners. Yes, the pitching they’ve seen has been pretty horrible overall, but Bruce Chen wasn’t just chucking fastballs over the plate in this one like some of the Class AAA stuff we saw last night and on Monday.
Chen actually struck out the side in the first inning and had retired five in a row before Kyle Seager homered off him to get the ball rolling once again. The Mariners’ runs per game average on the road climbed from 4.96 to 5.00 as they sit right behind the Yankees (5.05) and Mets (5.02) for top honors in MLB in that category.
It takes a fair bit of confidence to come back first from 3-1 down, then from 7-3 down, the way the Mariners did tonight.
“I think we had solid at-bats all-around,” said Casper Wells, who had a tying home run in the fourth inning and then some key hits in the latter rallies. “There were a couple of tough pitchers we faced in some situations and we came through, we battled back. I mean, you want to come away with a victory but it’s nice knowing you can come back from that kind of deficit.
“It’s definitely momentum-building and confidence-building from that type of perspective.”

Afterwards, I asked Wells about that confidence building and whether it started here the last two nights.
“I think since after the All-Star Break we’ve been having good at-bats all-around,” he said. “Sometimes we’ve been hitting balls at people. But I think in a lot of situations we’ve been coming through and it seems like it’s different guys every night. That’s characteristic of a winning team and it’s really all you can ask for. We battled back and I’m sure if we had another inning or so we would have gotten a couple of runs across and made it a different story.”
Wells had blown through a stop sign by third base coach Jeff Datz — he said he saw the sign go up too late — and then beat the tag at home with a terrific slide to cut the deficit to 7-4 in the sixth. Plate umpire Jim Joyce spoke to Wells right after.
“Jim Joyce was saying something like ‘That was the best slide I saw all year’,” Wells said.
Joyce would factor prominently later in the game after Brendan Ryan legged out a triple in the eighth on a gutsy play to set the Mariners up with the go-ahead run at third. Then, on a grounder to the right side, Ryan broke for home on contact and beat the throw and tag.
But his front foot — which he led the slide with — appeared on replay to ever actually touch the plate as it remained airborne before the tag was applied. Ryan was called out.
In the clubhouse, Ryan couldn’t believe it when told what the replay had shown.
“That’s a pretty special call,” Ryan said. “I don’t really know what to say, that’s crazy.”
No, he didn’t sound happy.
Ryan defended his aggressive baserunning late.
“If they’re going to be perfect, fine,” he said of the triple. “But if not, we have a chance to win the game without a base-hit.”
Mariners manager Eric Wedge defended Ryan as well, saying the Mariners were going for a win on the road late and that type of running is what gets it done. Nearly did, too.
Wedge had Kinney out on the mound because Brandon League and Lucas Luetge were unavailable and he was saving Tom Wilhelmsen for a closing situation.
“The guys swung the bats well again today,” Wedge said. “There was a different type of pitcher on the mound and that was evident early on. But I felt like our guys did a good job of making some adjustments, getting to him and making it work.”

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