SEATTLE – The last thing Seattle reliever Tom Wilhelmsen remembered hearing was to throw home if he was able to force a comebacker to the mound.
So when Minnesota’s Denard Span tapped back to the mound with the bases loaded and the Mariners trying to hold a late lead, what did Wilhelmsen do?
“I had a brain (lapse) and a pretty important one,” Wilhelmsen said. “Cost us the ballgame.”
Wilhelmsen’s throwing error was the catalyst to a three-run seventh inning for the Twins, capped by Joe Mauer’s two-out RBI single, and Minnesota rallied for a 3-2 win on Friday night, handing the Mariners their seventh straight loss.
Minnesota snapped a 25-inning scoreless streak with its three-run seventh and put to rest a few of the bad memories from Wednesday night’s no-hitter at the hands of Angels ace Jered Weaver.
Meanwhile, Seattle lost by one run for the fourth time in its past five games.
“We’ve gone through a lot this last week,” Seattle manager Eric Wedge said. “Look at all these tight ballgames. They will be better and stronger for it and wiser for it.”
Seattle’s bullpen struggles ruined a strong start by lefty Jason Vargas, who threw 61/3 innings before giving way to Wilhelmsen with a 2-0 lead. And it quickly fell apart.
Vargas departed after giving up a one-out double to Chris Parmelee. Wilhelmsen entered and walked Alexi Casilla and Trevor Plouffe to load the bases. Wilhelmsen looked as if he was going to get out of the inning when Span tapped back to the mound.
Wilhelmsen (1-1) grabbed the grounder with his bare hand and it appeared to throw him off. Instead of coming home for the force out, Wilhelmsen hesitated then rushed his throw to second, the ball tailing wide of the bag and almost out of Dustin Ackley’s reach.
But everyone was safe thanks to the errant throw and Parmelee scored for the Twins’ first run since the eighth inning of their game Monday against the Angels.
“I think the fact that he was so surprised he caught it with the bare hand threw him off,” Wedge said.
Jamey Carroll followed with a grounder wide of first and the only play was a force out of Span at second, allowing Casilla to score the tying run.
That was it for Wilhelmsen, who was showered with boos as he was replaced by Charlie Furbush to face Mauer.
On a 3-1 pitch, Mauer grounded back up the middle. The bouncer glanced off Brendan Ryan’s stretched glove and trickled onto the outfield grass to score Plouffe.
Before the game, Wedge announced that veteran Chone Figgins, who had been batting leadoff, was being benched.