Mariners bullpen surrenders another game-winning home run
ANAHEIM, Calif. — The translation of the Biblical name Eliezer means “God is help,” and the Mariners for a while did indeed receive some divine-looking intervention from their new catcher.
Eliezer Alfonzo looked unworldly at the plate in the early going of Sunday afternoon’s series finale, clubbing a three-run homer, managing three hits his first three times up, driving in four and scoring twice.
But the Mariners needed even more help than that in a 9-7 loss to the Los Angeles Angels, especially in a ninth inning that saw closer David Aardsma fail to corral a double-play grounder before serving up a decisive three-run homer.
Howie Kendrick’s blast over the wall in right-center, a second straight walkoff blast yielded by Seattle’s bullpen, seemed a foregone conclusion in a game the Mariners spent five innings frittering away.
“We’ve got to be able to rely on our bullpen for more than six runs (allowed),” Mariners manager Don Wakamatsu said in a stunned postgame clubhouse.
Fans in the crowd of 40,017 at Angels Stadium leapt from their seats as Kendrick’s shot left his bat, then stuck around to witness a more-subdued celebration. On Saturday, Kendry Morales broke his leg when he leapt onto the plate in celebration of his walkoff grand slam in a 5-1 win. On Sunday, the Angels gave Kendrick plenty of room as he rounded third and headed home.
Despite rolling up a 7-2 lead by the fifth inning, the Mariners never looked comfortable. Starter Ian Snell, who admitted he felt “tired” and “fatigued” after a seven-day layoff, walked the first two Angels he faced in the fifth and was pulled.
Mariners pitchers issued a total of nine walks. Kanekoa Texeira’s second walk in the sixth inning, on four pitches to Bobby Abreu, forced in a run and ended the reliever’s day.
Alfonzo’s run of success ended that inning as well, when he was called for catcher’s interference on a 1-2 pitch to Hideki Matsui. That brought in another run to cut Seattle’s lead to 7-5.
“I was set up too close to him,” Alfonzo said, shaking his head.
Texeira was so upset with his performance that he went in the clubhouse and shaved off the “rally stash” mustache he’d started growing before the team’s three-game win streak last week.
“I might go bald next week,” he quipped, in reference to his poor results of late.
Shawn Kelley did his best to stabilize things with 21/3 innings of one-run relief. Kelley didn’t walk anybody and allowed only one run, a solo homer to left field by Kendrick in the seventh.
“I just told myself to pound the strike zone and let the cards fall where they may,” Kelley said. “You’re going to get in trouble if you keep putting multiple guys on base.”
That’s what happened to Aardsma in the ninth as he walked Matsui leading off, then, with one out, failed to snag a hard shot back to the mound by Mike Napoli. If he’d caught the ball, Aardsma had a shot at a game-ending double play.
Aardsma allowed a second runner, then saw Kendrick destroy his full-count offering.
The game’s ending spoiled the day for Alfonzo, a 31-year-old journeyman who matched his career highs in hits and RBI, set in 2007 and 2006, respectively. He was asked if the day could have gone any better for him.
“Yeah, win the game,” he replied.
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