ANAHEIM, Calif. – The unraveling of this Seattle Mariners run at contention was likely completed in one massive third-inning meltdown in which anything that could go wrong pretty much did.
An umpire called a ball instead of a strike on a checked swing, the Los Angeles Angels got two more outs to play with and two base runners instead of none, and Mariners manager Eric Wedge got tossed from the game.
But the biggest setback in this 9-3 loss on Saturday night is that potential Mariners all-star Michael Pineda suddenly looked like a rookie pitcher.
Pineda rushed a throw and threw a ball away for one run in that third, then served up a two-run homer to Torii Hunter that buried the Mariners in a hole. Seattle dropped a fourth game in four days in the American League West standings to the Texas Rangers and trail by 61/2 games in a race few people consider Seattle a part of any more.
“It changes the course of the entire ballgame,” Wedge said of the call by third-base umpire Sam Holbrook on a full-count pitch to Hank Conger with a runner breaking for second. “Two outs and nobody on – to first and second and nobody out. It was ridiculous.
“It was obvious to everybody in the ballpark, obviously, except for him that he did go (around). It was just a bad call. A bad call that changed the entire ballgame.”
Mark Trumbo had broken for second on the play and was thrown out by catcher Miguel Olivo to complete what appeared to be a double play. Instead, Conger was awarded a walk, Trumbo advanced automatically to second and Pineda couldn’t get it done after that.
A crowd of 44,111 at Angel Stadium watched Pineda scoop up an ensuing bunt by speedy rookie Mike Trout and hurry a throw to first base. Dustin Ackley was covering, but the throw came into the path of the base runner and Ackley couldn’t corral it.
One run scored on the error and then, one out later, Hunter swatted a ball over the left-field fence for a 4-0 lead.
The Mariners tried to come back with a run in the fourth on back-to-back doubles by Ackley and Olivo off onetime Seattle starter Joel Pineiro.
Four consecutive singles with two out in the fifth made it 4-3. But Justin Smoak lined out to center with the bases loaded to end the final chance Seattle had to tie it up. Pineda gave up a leadoff walk and run-scoring double in the bottom of the inning and then the second homer of the game by Hunter to make it 7-3.
“I just think he was a little bit out of sync,” Wedge said of Pineda. “It’s something he can learn from.”
Wedge said he was sure the non double-play call by Holbrook had an impact on Pineda, who was lifted after the fifth.
“He’s still a young kid,” Wedge said.
Pineda agreed he was a tad miffed by the non-strikeout. He did his best to stay under control, to mixed results in an outing that tied for his shortest this year.
“Next time, with the umpire, whenever something happens, I’m going to focus on the game,” Pineda said. “Because it’s my game.”