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June 1, 2013 at 4:17 PM

The (latest) one that got away

Photo by Associated Press

Photo by Associated Press

Absolutely nothing deflates a team more than having a victory snatched away from them in the ninth inning, and Tom Wilhelmsen was feeling every bit of that responsibility on Saturday.

“It’s the bleeping worst thing in the world,’’ Wilhelmsen said. “Letting your team down. There’s nothing else like it. They put you in position to do your job and when you can’t do it, it makes you feel like an (expletive).”

This is getting to be too common for the Mariners, who lead the major leagues in walkoff losses (six), and have had five of them in their last 10 road games. Their margin of error this season is way too small to lose on days when they have a game in hand.

This one hurt as much as any of them, as the Mariners took a 4-2 lead into the bottom of the ninth, only to have Wilhelmsen cough it up. He started by doing the last thing he wanted to do, of course — walk the leadoff guy. Then he walked the second guy. Then he walked the third guy.

At this point, I know a lot of people were screaming at Wedge to pull Wilhelmsen. Some of you are probably still screaming. But I think that’s borne mainly of understandable frustration. Look, the guy is your closer, he had been having tremendous success until this recent stretch, and the alternative at this stage is a rookie pitcher, Yoervis Medina, who has never been in a situation like this (unless you count Cleveland, when Medina inherited a bases-loaded, no-out situation in the ninth inning of a tie game. He gave up the grounder to Brendan Ryan that resulted in Jesus Montero pulling his foot on the throw home). I put this one on Wilhelmsen, not Wedge. I still believe their best chance there was with their closer, not with a rookie who in his last outing gave up three hits without recording an out to get walked-off by the Padres.

Here’s what Wedge had to say about it:

“He gets the next guy out (Josh Willingham’s sacrifice fly), and if he gets a ground ball, the game’s over,’’ Wedge said. “I mean, he’s your closer. Otherwise, you’re going to go to a guy who has never been in that situation, for the closer.

“It’s just asking a lot from someone who hasn’t been in that situation. With closers, you live and die with them. He makes a pitch there and puts the ball on the ground, the game’s over, and we win. You’ve got to give him every opportunity.”

It was the second time on this road trip, and the third time in his last four opportunities, Wilhelmsen hasn’t been able to hold a lead. But this one was particularly painful as Wilhelmsen walked the bases loaded to start the unraveling, then gave up a two-run triple to Ryan Doumit – a native of Moses Lake – to end it. That came on a 2-2 pitch, so he was on the verge of a strikeout that would have been the second out of the inning.

“I didn’t throw much for strikes,’’ Wilhelmsen said. “Leadoff walks will get you every time. Then you walk the next two guys, you’re looking for trouble.”

Doumit’s one-out drive to the gap in right-center came on a fastball that Wilhelmsen described as “the only strike I threw. It was right down the middle. So if he misses, it’s a great pitch. But he knew what was coming and lit it up.”

The Mariners could easily be 4-0 on this road trip, just as they easily could have won all four games in Cleveland. But they lost six of those eight games, and those defeats count in the standings. They need to get Wilhelmsen straightened out, or any progress they’re making in other aspects of their game will be nullified.

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