No relief for M’s: Bullpen folds again

Lopez’s ninth-inning gaffes fuel collapse

SEATTLE – The Seattle Mariners foiled the Baltimore Orioles once with the bases loaded and nobody out. They couldn’t foil them twice.

Three innings after escaping the ultimate jam, the Mariners unraveled under mistakes by their bullpen and defense in the ninth inning Wednesday, when the Orioles scored five runs for a 5-3 victory over the M’s at Safeco Field.

The culprits?

Closer David Aardsma, who had converted 17 of 18 save opportunities this season, allowed three straight hits and a walk in the ninth.

Then the support behind him crumbled when second baseman Jose Lopez made two errors – bobbling a potential double-play grounder and later making a bad throw to first base.

It was the third straight game the bullpen has been called to protect a lead and didn’t, and this one was more disheartening than Sunday’s loss at Boston or Tuesday night’s loss to the Orioles.

Of the 17 runs the Orioles scored in the three-game series, only two – yielded in the first inning Tuesday by Erik Bedard – were against Mariners starting pitchers.

Jarrod Washburn pitched the game of his life Monday in a one-hit complete-game shutout, Bedard gave up two in the first inning and nothing else in his four innings Tuesday, and Jason Vargas held the Orioles scoreless in five innings Wednesday.

However, like Bedard on Tuesday, Vargas’ pitch count grew rapidly because of five walks. He threw first-pitch strikes to only eight of 22 hitters and was pulled after 97 pitches.

Miguel Batista gave them some bases-loaded, nobody-out practice in the sixth when he allowed a hit and a walk, along with third baseman Chris Woodward’s error.

Then left-hander Garrett Olson pulled a great escape with a strikeout and a double-play grounder.

That kept the Mariners ahead 2-0, the lead supplied by Lopez with his two-run homer off the left-field foul pole in the first inning.

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