When you look at how tough the Mariners played the Boston Red Sox their last two series, it seems almost incomprehensile that they could sport just a 1-6 record over those seven games. But just as they did three times that last series in Seattle, the Mariners tonight saw their bullpen fail to get it done and took a stunning, 8-7 walkoff loss.
It was stunning because the Mariners had a 7-2 lead going into the ninth inning.
But closer Tom Wilhelmsen again could not get it done and this is looking like a problem the Mariners will need to pay serious attention to these final two months because his blown saves have changed the entire character of this season for a team now eight games under .500.
Interim manager Robby Thompson finally pulled Wilhelmsen after he’d yielded a single, two walks and an RBI double that made it a 7-3 game and left the bases loaded with one out. At that point, things got real interesting as manager Robby Thompson wanted to call in right-hander Yoervis Medina to face Shane Victorino. Instead, plate umpire David Rackley and crew chief Gary Darling both ruled that he had pointed to the bullpen with his left hand and needed to use a southpaw.
So, Medina was forced to reverse his tracks halfway to the plate and head back to the bullpen, while left-hander Oliver Perez had to come on. Thompson explained afterwards that he usually taps whatever arm he wants the pitcher coming in to be throwing from.
He said he only pointed to the bullpen with his left hand to signal that he wanted to go to the bullpen and then was about to tap his right arm. But it was too late, with the umpire already signalling that a lefty had to come in.
“We wanted to go to Medina there and then if we had to go to Ollie (Perez), he was the next guy,’’ Thompson said. “If there’s anything there for me, it’s a lesson learned that if you make any motion with either hand, that’s it. I didn’t realize that. I did point to the pen, but I didn’t have time to do this (tap) for the right-hander.’’
So, that plan went astray.
Then, after the hits kept coming, the Mariners finally went to Medina with the score 7-6, one out and two on. With the count 2-2 to Jonny Gomes, Medina fired what he felt was a strike on the outside corner. But umpire Rackley felt it was outside, the count went full and Gomes drilled a tying single on the next pitch.
Thompson said he’ll look at video to see what he did with his arm and accepts responsibility if he did something wrong.
Now, look, we can all complain about the umpires and stuff.
But bottom line? Wilhelmsen has to get people out in the ninth inning, whether it’s a save situation or not. If he can’t do it, he can’t be the closer.
This stuff has gone on for months and it’s the defining negative factor of the year for this team so far. So, either he figures something out in a real hurry, or Jack Zduriencik and crew will need another ninth inning option. As quickly as this year. This can’t keep happening. You either have the mindset to close or you don’t. Right now, this doesn’t appear to be a mechanical issue.
As for Perez, he said he was surprised by having to come in once Medina had already headed out. But he said it didn’t affect his pitching.
Again, the bottom line? Nobody in the bullpen got the job done and the Mariners were swept.
Felix Hernandez has another outing wasted.
“Today, Felix did everything he could and we didn’t get it done,’’ Perez said. “He had done a good job and we just couldn’t get three outs.’’