CLEVELAND – Brandon League sat and stared into his locker in disbelief.
The Seattle Mariners’ closer lost for the fourth time in five games this week. This time, it cost manager Eric Wedge a potentially sweet win in his homecoming to Cleveland.
Travis Hafner hit a two-out, two-run homer in the ninth inning off League (0-4) on Friday night, giving the Indians their latest dramatic win, 5-4 over the Mariners, who lost their sixth straight.
“You’ve got to feel for the guy,” Seattle starter Doug Fister said after pitching eight strong innings and leaving with a 4-2 lead. “It’s just unfortunate.”
League’s three previous losses all came in extra innings, Sunday at home to the Chicago White Sox, then Tuesday and Thursday in Baltimore.
“It’s been a tough stretch,” Wedge said. “League was one pitch from finishing it off. You have to handle it and be strong – but that doesn’t make it hurt any less.”
Hafner belted a 0-1 pitch over the center-field fence for his first homer since April 17, sending a crowd of 33,774 into a frenzy.
Tony Sipp (2-0) pitched a perfect 1 1/3 innings for the win – Cleveland’s ninth in its last at-bat. The Indians’ 15-4 home record is the best in baseball and their last five wins at Progressive Field have come on their final swing.
Meanwhile the Mariners have lost three of their last four on walkoff hits.
Justin Smoak hit a two-run homer for Seattle and Peguero hit his first major league homer, a 422-foot solo shot.
Although he did not admit it, the stoic-and-steady Wedge was probably stung by the loss.
He managed the Indians for seven seasons, guiding them through a tough rebuilding period and leading them to the A.L. Central title in 2007, when they missed the World Series by one win. Yet he was never embraced by Cleveland fans and fired after losing 97 games in 2009.
Fister was supposedly a break for the Indians, who have been facing some of the A.L.’s top pitchers recently.
In 12 games leading into the series opener, Cleveland had gone against seven pitchers ranked in the top 20 in earned run average in the league.
Fister looked as if he belonged there.
“He was outstanding,” Wedge said.
Fister retired the side in order in four innings, and he faced only three batters in the second, when the Mariners turned a double play.
Down 2-1, the Mariners scored three in the seventh, highlighted by Smoak’s homer.
The Mariners are hoping rest and a rehab program will help closer David Aardsma overcome a strained right elbow ligament. Aardsma, who has not pitched this season after undergoing hip surgery in January, has been told he will not need Tommy John surgery. … The Mariners have claimed right-hander reliever Jeff Gray off waivers from the Chicago White Sox and he is expected to join the team today. Gray has also pitched with Oakland and the Cubs. He’s 1-1 with a 4.36 ERA in 42 games, including a 2.70 ERA this season. … LHP Jason Vargas on Thursday became the first Mariner to pitch nine shutout innings in a no-decision since Indians pitching coach Tim Belcher did it for Seattle on June 4, 1994. … In 511 games in the minors, Peguero struck out 660 times.
LOB—Seattle 4, Cleveland 1. 2B—Cust (8), Brantley (6), A.Cabrera (8). HR—Peguero (1), Smoak (6), Choo (5), Brantley (3), Hafner (5). RBIs—Smoak 2 (24), Peguero (1), Ryan (9), Brantley (14), A.Cabrera (25), Choo (19), Hafner 2 (16). CS—Kearns (2). RLISP—Seattle 2. RMU—A.Kennedy, Choo. GIDP—Figgins, O.Cabrera. DP—Seattle 1, Cleveland 2.
|League L, 0-4||2/3||3||3||3||0||0||7.31|
|Sipp W, 2-0||11/3||0||0||0||0||1||1.50|
IR-S—Sipp 2-0. HBP—Smoak. WP—Sipp. T—2:24. A—33,774 (43,441).