CLEVELAND — Mariners closer Tom Wilhelmsen summed up the feelings of his team when asked about this latest gut-wrenching defeat and series sweep.
“We’re glad to leave Cleveland,” Wilhelmsen said.
It isn’t simply that the Mariners’ suffered a third walkoff loss in four games Monday, this one 10-8 in the 10th inning to the Indians. It was the bizarre way this entire series seemed to unfold, including Wilhelmsen dropping a toss from Justin Smoak in the bottom of the ninth inning on what looked like a game-ending play at first base.
“Smoakie made a great play and threw a perfect ball right to me,” Wilhelmsen said. “I simply took my eyes off it, and it fell out.”
The crowd of 19,390 at Progressive Field erupted in cheers as the tying run scored on the play. But the Mariners silenced them immediately in the 10th inning when Smoak hit Seattle’s second go-ahead solo homer in as many frames.
Charlie Furbush took over in the bottom of the inning. But the Indians got a bloop single, and Drew Stubbs reached on an error by Smoak when Furbush fielded a bunt, looked at second a bit too long, then hurried a throw that hit the first baseman in the chest.
Yan Gomes then drilled a fastball over the left-field wall for his second home run of the game to deliver the walkoff victory. The Mariners were swept four straight in the series and have lost six straight games here.
They also fell to 2-5 on this trip despite having arguably played well enough to win most of the games. Wilhelmsen was asked whether his team felt it deserved a better fate.
“Yeah, you know, we want to be 4-0,” he said of the series. “Do we deserve it? Apparently not. They beat us. That’s just the way it is.”
The Mariners rallied from numerous deficits in a game that seesawed back and forth. Mariners starter Hisashi Iwakuma had trouble keeping the ball down early and saw a 2-0 lead vanish in the second on a three-run homer by Ryan Raburn, followed by a solo shot from Gomes that put Cleveland up 4-2.
But the Mariners tied it 4-4 in the third off Indians starter Scott Kazmir, fell behind again in the bottom of the inning, and evened it 5-5 in the fourth. Iwakuma then pulled his game together the final few frames and kept the score tied through the sixth.
“I wanted to keep the team in the game,” said Iwakuma, who allowed a season-high five earned runs in his 101-pitch outing.
The Indians retook a 6-5 lead off relief pitcher Yoervis Medina in the seventh, but once again, the Mariners tied it as Kyle Seager hit a homer off Vinnie Pestano in the eighth. Pinch-hitter Endy Chavez then hit another solo homer in the ninth off Indians closer Chris Perez — the third homer he allowed in the ninth to the Mariners in two days — to give Seattle a 7-6 lead.
But then Wilhelmsen dropped the ball.
“It’s tough, not easy,” Smoak said. “Three walkoff (losses) is never good in a four-game series.”
Smoak in the ninth had made the dazzling, diving stop of a Carlos Santana ball to his right that appeared destined for right field. To come so close to victory after such a hard-fought day only to be denied, Smoak added, wasn’t easy to swallow.
“But at the same time, it shows you how much fight we have,” he said. “They get up and we battle back. They battled back and then we battled, back and forth the whole game. It was just one of those things where we know what we’re capable of doing.
“We’ve just got to keep our heads down and keep going.”
Mariners manager Eric Wedge said his team has to forget about this series and move on.
“We kept coming back and kept taking the lead,” he said. “We just weren’t able to make plays and make pitches when we needed to late.
“We were so close to winning that ballgame. We’re just on the south side of things right now. We still have to look at the baseball we’ve been playing and the teams we’ve been playing — two first-place clubs in New York and Cleveland. We’ve played seven games now on this road trip and easily could have won six of them, so we’re that close.
“But you’ve got to execute and you’ve got to make plays late in the ballgame to finish those types of games off.”