Alfonso Soriano hit a two-run homer off Oliver Perez in the 11th inning Saturday at Safeco Field, lifting the Chicago Cubs to a 5-3 victory over the Mariners and spoiling a “Turn Back The Clock” show for 34,630. After Nate Schierholtz dragged a bunt past Perez to open the 11th, Soriano boomed a 1-and-2 fastball over the wall in right center.
Before Soriano tattooed him, Perez had not allowed a run in his last 14 outings covering 12.0 innings. Perez yielded his last earned run May 18 in Cleveland.
With the loss, which tied the three-game, interleague series 1-1, the Mariners dropped to 35-46, reaching the halfway point of the season. At the 81-game mark last year, the Mariners were 34-47. Thirty-five of Seattle’s 81 games have been decided by two runs or fewer. The Mariners are 16-19 in those games with 12 contests going into extra innings (5-7).
The Mariners were looking to record back-to-back walk-off wins (Mike Zunino had the walk-off hit Friday) for the first time since Sept. 17-18, 2009, when Ichiro had walk-off hits on consecutive days. But in the 11th, Justin Smoak grounded out, Zunino grounded out and pitcher Joe Saunders, a career .136 batsman pinch-hitting because no one else was available, flew out to center.
The Mariners had ample opportunities to win, but couldn’t push across runs in key situations. Also, the top three hitters in the order, Endy Chavez, Brad Miller and Kyle Seager, went a combined 1-for-13.
Seattle starter Aaron Harang, who threw two complete-game shutouts and was knocked out three times before the sixth inning in six previous starts, pitched a commendable game, allowing three earned runs on five hits in 8.0 innings, but did not factor in the decision.
After Starlin Castro homered off Harang on an 0-and-1 count in the first, the Mariners came back with two runs in the second on Smoak’s sixth home run and Dustin Ackley’s RBI single that scored Zunino, who doubled.
The Cubs tied it 2-2 in the sixth when Luis Valbuena doubled with one out and scored on Schierholtz’s single, and took a 3-2 lead when Soriano’s single scored Schierholtz.
Raul Ibanez, who went 2-for-5, doubled with two out in the eighth, but after Smoak singled, was out at the plate trying to score.
The Mariners tied it in the ninth. After Chicago closer Kevin Gregg walked pinch hitter Henry Blanco, Chavez, on an 0-for-19 slide, singled to center, scoring pinch-runner Michael Saunders. Two innings later, Soriano ended it.
Sunday, Seattle’s Jeremy Bonderman (1-1, 3.30) opposwa RHP Edwin Jackson (3-10, 5.84).
Bonderman has largely put behind him the injuries that kept him from starting in a major league game for 975 days. Despite lasting only 5.1 innings in his last start, the 30-year old has allowed just four runs in his last four appearances. Although Jackson is an ugly 3-10, take heed: He’s 3-0 lifetime against Seattle, including 2-0 at Safeco Field.
The Mariners are off Monday, and then play 13 games in 13 days, starting with three at Texas (Tuesday-Friday) and three at Cincinnati (Friday-Sunday).
NOTES: Mariners CF Dustin Ackley had to leave the game in the ninth after a diving attempt on a fly ball by Soriano. He was diagnosed with a sprained left thumb. Wedge said he hoped the injury would heal in a couple of days . . . The Mariners used 17 of their 25 players. Michael Saunders couldn’t hit because of a finger spiked Friday . . . The Mariners wore 1909 Seattle Turks uniforms while the Cubs wore duds from the same era . . . The Friday lineup featured just three who started on Opening Day: Kyle Seager, Kendrys Morales and Dustin Ackley, just back from a stint with AAA Tacoma.
Some of the decisions in this game just confused me. Bay attempting to steal on a 3-1count when a guy who has 18 HRs is at the plate? And considering that Raul ended up getting a double after Bay was caught stealing only makes that more frustrating. And then sending the 41 year old Raul to go home when the ball went to LF? And when he was playing in? Alrighty then. Right when Raul turned the corner at 3rd I knew he was out.
I knew sending Bay in to pinch run for Morales would come back to haunt the M’s. His bat is too good and the bullpen is too shaky, plus the game was too close, to do that. If Wedge was determined to have someone run for Morales then he should have done what Lou Pinella would do when the bench is too thin in that situation: have a pitcher run for him. As it was, when Ackley got hurt, Bay goes in for him after running for Morales and Michael Saunders isn’t available to sub for Ackley then that meant the pitcher had to hit in the DH spot. Not a good sign when your last AB is being done by Joe Saunders. That was just futile.
It’s always an advantage to review decisions after the consequences have played out, but Wedge’s process is often incomprehensible before and after the results have played out. It’s as if certain players have some kind of invisible-ink forehead tattoos that define thier roles and that only Wedge can see.
It appears as if AAA baseball is the game the franchise is all about, in that the franchise focus is developing AAA player potential and big club is managed and plays like AAA– schooling and protecting and nudging and modeling players rather than playing balls-out ball to win. It’s done under the moniker of “rebuilding”– but, hey, this IS the Bigs. At least for the rest of the League.
The club lives in the land of make-em-have-hope and aggresively peddles potential and if-just -a-few-of-these-AAA guys-pan-out certainties. But, MLB success is only about results. Wins and losses results, not squaring up on a certain at-bat or pitch choice improvement or anything else. Wins and losses. And … the results have changed about as much as the continental plates have moved in the last 10 years. Sad, really.