WASHINGTON – The Seattle Mariners were left glassy-eyed and nearly speechless after an utterly shocking 6-5 loss to the Washington Nationals on Tuesday.
But Brandon League, who had to leave the game in the midst of their ninth-inning collapse after getting hit in the lower leg by a Mike Morse smash, summed it all up concisely in two words: “It sucks.”
The Mariners have had gut-wrenching losses this season, particularly on a trip to Baltimore and Cleveland in mid-May. But on the scale of devastating defeats, this one at Nationals Park has to rank at the top.
“Every once in a while, you’re going to get kicked in the teeth like this,” Mariners manager Eric Wedge said after the game. “And when you do, you pick yourself back up, learn from it, shelve it, and come back out tomorrow with a fresh frame of mind.”
The shelving might be the hard part, especially for David Pauley. Hastily summoned to replace the injured League, he was in line for his first career save. Instead, he gave up a run-scoring single to Danny Espinosa, and then the killer: a three-run homer by 23-year-old catcher Wilson Ramos deep into the left-field bleachers that capped the Nationals’ five-run rally (all unearned) in the ninth.
“Everything was kind of a messed-up situation,” said Pauley, who sat at his locker with his head in his hands before facing reporters. “Unfortunately, Brandon gets hit in the foot, but that’s no excuse for me. I have to go out and make the pitches. I made a bad one.”
The Mariners were ahead by a seemingly comfortable 5-1 margin heading into the ninth, having ridden a 13-hit attack and a brilliant outing by starter Doug Fister. With Fister sitting at 99 pitches on a muggy summer night, the obvious question to Wedge was why Fister didn’t pitch the ninth.
“We even debated sending him back out for the eighth,” Wedge said. “Just because it was so hot, he was on base (after a fourth-inning single for Fister’s first career RBI), and he worked so hard.
“That was enough for him today. We felt we pushed him through the eighth. League hadn’t pitched in three days. He needed to pitch. He’s been our guy. It just didn’t work out for us.”
“I felt strong,” Fister said. “You never want to come out of a game. But I respect Skip’s decision. We’re OK on that.”
The Nationals, who had been stymied on three hits by Fister, weren’t unhappy to see him depart.
“It seems like it happens more often than not, when you take a guy out of the game that’s rolling pretty good, you kind of take a deep breath and be like, ‘All right, he’s gone, let’s get this guy,’ ” Washington’s Jayson Werth said.
“I think when that inning started, we felt pretty good about it. League’s got good stuff, but Mikey (Morse) hit that ball and got him out of the game. There was a lot of stuff going on that inning.”
The stuff began to hit the fan for the Mariners with Werth’s grounder that got past first baseman Justin Smoak for a two-base error. League then walked Roger Bernadina (“That’s terrible,” he said), but seemed to be OK when Ryan Zimmerman hit into his third double play of the game.
The final out proved to be elusive, however. Jerry Hairston banged a single to center to drive in one run and cut Seattle’s lead to 5-2. Morse then hit the line drive that struck League below his right calf. League scrambled for the ball but threw too late to get Morse. He then tried to throw some practice pitches but had to leave the game. League is listed as day to day with a contusion.
“He should be OK,” Wedge said. “He’s going to be sore tomorrow, obviously. It got him good. He tried to throw a couple of pitches, but he wasn’t able to feel much down there. That was his push-off leg, so we had to get him out of there.”
Coming in cold, Pauley had all the time he needed to warm up.
“You don’t plan for those type things,” he said. “Those things happen. No excuses. It’s not the way it should end.”
Ramos’ homer, the first allowed by Pauley this season in 40 innings and first walkoff of Ramos’ career, came on a first-pitch change-up.
“It was just up,” Pauley said. “That’s what’s supposed to happen. It’s not a place you want to throw a change-up in that situation. That ball needs to be down no matter what. It was the right pitch. I just didn’t make the pitch.”
The Mariners face the same challenge they did after League blew three leads in a four-game span against the Orioles and Indians – shelving it.
“It’s baseball,” Wedge said. “That’s why you play nine innings. That’s why you have to get 27 outs. We just weren’t able to get the last one.”