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July 4, 2013 at 10:02 PM

Mariners let a sweep slip away

The sellout crowd of 46,476 in Texas enjoyed a fireworks show after the Rangers 5-4 win

The sellout crowd of 46,476 in Texas enjoyed a fireworks show after the Rangers 5-4 win

The Mariners hadn’t had a series sweep this year, and they still don’t. This was the fifth time they won the first two games of a series but dropped the third. And this 5-4 loss to the Rangers really hurt, even though the culprit — failure to hit in the clutch — was hauntingly familiar.

The Mariners had 14 hits but stranded 13 runners. They were 1-for-12 with runners in scoring position. Blah blah blah — I know you’ve heard it all before, complete with frustrated Eric Wedge quote:

“You get 14 hits and only score four runs and leave 12 on, that’s the difference in the game right there. I felt we put up some pretty good Abs obviously and had some hard outs. Kendrys was up there a couple times and lined out twice with runners in scoring position. That was big against us, but we’ve got to do a better job with runners in scoring position.”

I know a lot of you were wondering about Wedge not pinch-hitting for Henry Blanco in the seventh with the bases loaded. Blanco actually hit the ball fairly solidly to center for a fly out, but wound up stranding eight runners in the game. Here’s what Wedge said when asked about possibly hitting for Blanco:

“No, because he’s still out there with Iwakuma. You don’t want to change your catcher with your starting pitcher in the seventh inning. They’ve been together the whole time. You’ve got to keep those two together.”

I think Wedge should have sent up a pinch-hitter. Blanco is simply no offensive threat at this point of his career. He appears to have an extremely slow bat and was having a tough night.  This was a chance to really blow the game open. Iwakuma faltered anyway in the bottom of the seventh, giving up a homer to Beltre for the second time in the game and two more baserunners before being replaced. The inning careened out of control after that, including a weird play in which Mitch Moreland knocked the ball loose from Nick Franklin as he was trying to tag him and complete what would have been an inning-ending double play. Instead,  Moreland wound up on third and scored what turned out to be the winning run on a single by Ian Kinsler.

“He just ran hard straight into it, and unlucky enough it came out of my glove,’’ Franklin said. “I tried to reach out for him. The right thing (for Moreland) to do, I guess, was to try to run through me and run through the glove, and that’s exactly what happened. It’s just something you have to take back and hope for the best next time.”

All in all a tough night for the Mariners, right down to pinch-hitter Michael Saunders looking at strike three with a runner on first to end the game. But a word must be said about Raul Ibanez, who is on a truly remarkable run. He gave the Mariners a brief lead with a two-run homer in the seventh (his 21st), then added an RBI single in the eighth to pull the Mariners back within one. He had four hits in the game and shows no signs of slowing down. But as long as the Mariners don’t hit better in the clutch, Ibanez’s heroics are just a warm-hearted sidelight to a disappointing season.

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