Things just aren’t going well for Mariners closer Brandon League. On May 17, League entered a game against Cleveland in the 11th inning, tasked with protecting a 5-4 Seattle lead. Imploding, League walked two, threw a wild pitch, and then allowed a bases-loaded single to Carlos Santana, giving the Mariners a 6-5 loss.
On Friday, League took a 4-3 lead into the ninth inning against the Los Angeles Angels at Safeco Field. He promptly allowed a single, a walk and threw the ball wildly up the third-base line on a sacrifice bunt attempt, allowing the tying run to score. After an intentional walk, he gave up a two-run, game-winning single to Howie Kendrick.
The latest meltdown represented League’s third blown save in five chances dating to April 30. In League’s last 3.1 innings, the former All-Star has been dinged for seven runs (six earned) on eight hits and five walks.
En route to saving 37 games in 2011, League had just five blown saves in 60 appearances. This season, League already has four. More significantly, he has four before June 1. In the history of the Mariners, which dates to 1977, only two other closers have had as many as four saves before June 1.
Bobby Ayala became the first to accomplish that dubious feat in 1998, the main reason he did not pitch for the Mariners again in 1999. Kazuhiro Sasaki duplicated Ayala’s four blown saves in 2003, which also happened to be Sasaki’s final year with the Mariners.
Quizzed about League’s status Friday night, manager Eric Wedge insisted he had no plans to change closers, clearly because he does not believe he has anyone else equipped to take that job.
“You can’t just make a move without having somebody else take on that role,” Wedge said after watching League unravel Friday. “Brandon League’s our closer. We’ve got to get him going. We’ve got a lot of young kids down in that bullpen. Carl [Willis] and I will continue to talk about everything. The most important thing is obviously to win ballgames here. So we’re not going to make a reactive decision five minutes after the ballgame.”
The usual curative for falling off a horse is to get back on. But if League “gets back on” again and falls off again before June 1, he will own the franchise record for most blown saves before that date. These are the only players in team history to blow three or more saves before June 1:
|1998||Bobby Ayala||4||May 23: Had 3-2 lead, gave up 4 runs|
|2003||Kazuhiro Sasaki||4||April 19: 3 runs in 9th, M’s lost 7-6|
|2012||BRANDON LEAGUE||4||May 25: 3 runs, throwing error in 9th|
|1998||Mike Timlin||3||May 20: Gave up winning hit in 9th|
|2001||Kazuhiro Sasaki||3||April 13: Gave up walk-off home run|
|2004||Eddie Guardado||3||May 30: Lost 2-run lead, M’s lost 9-7|
|2008||J.J. Putz||3||April 1: Gave up game-winning homer|
|2010||David Aardsma||3||April 24: Allowed 2-run walk-off homer|