Wilhelmsen blows save in Mariners’ loss
Seattle relief ace fails to hold ninth inning lead in Minnesota
MINNEAPOLIS — Tom Wilhelmsen walked the first three batters he faced, and Seattle manager Eric Wedge didn’t budge.
He’s the closer, and this was his game to lose. The right-hander took the defeat hard.
Ryan Doumit’s two-run triple off Wilhelmsen with one out in the ninth inning sent the Minnesota Twins to a 5-4 victory over the Mariners on Saturday afternoon.
“Leadoff walks will get you every time. Then you walk the next two guys, you’re looking for trouble,” said Wilhelmsen, whose ERA jumped from 0.75 to 1.85.
This was the third blown save of the season for Wilhelmsen (0-1), all in his last four tries. He pitched a perfect ninth for the save Friday night, but this was far from it after he inherited a 4-2 lead. Josh Willingham hit a sacrifice fly, and Doumit drove in two more for the walk-off win.
“Letting your team down, there’s nothing else like it,” Wilhelmsen said in an obscenity-laced description of his feelings.
Wilhelmsen also issued two walks in a squandered save at San Diego on Wednesday. This one wiped out two homers by Jason Bay and an effective start by Aaron Harang. After such a dominant start to the season, Wilhelmsen has hit a snag. Of his first 22 appearances before this, 19 were scoreless. He has given up only 10 hits in 24 1-3 innings, but his walk total rose to 11.
“He’s going to have to get out there and just put these things behind him,” Wedge said. “Take whatever he can from it in regards to learning from it. I’ve been through this before with closers and you’re going to have some tough spots through the course of a season.”
Doumit was waiting for the two-strike fastball left over the middle of the plate.
“Wilhelmsen’s one of the best,” Doumit said. “He came in and kind of shoved it yesterday. You could tell after the first two hitters that he faced today, he wasn’t sharp. So then we have the middle of the order up there, 2-3-4. We’re looking to get something to drive and we got it.”
Rookie Caleb Thielbar (1-0) picked up his first major league victory with a scoreless ninth inning. Kevin Correia pitched into the seventh inning for the Twins but gave up three home runs for the second straight start.
Four of Bay’s eight home runs, all of them with no one on base, have been in his last five games. Kyle Seager also homered and scored after a single in the seventh.
Correia recorded two quick outs in the seventh before Bay drove a 2-1 breaking ball into the left-field seats. With Brian Duensing in the game, Raul Ibanez’s single stretched the lead to 4-2.
In his first season with the Mariners after injuries limited him to a career-low 70 games and a .165 batting average in 2012, Bay has sure rediscovered his power stroke this week. He hit 32 or more homers in three of five years from 2005-09 but went deep only 26 times for the Mets over the last three miserable seasons.
Bay and Seager, who is 7 for 20 in his last five games, hit back-to-back shots against Correia in their first inning of the new month. In May, the Mariners homered 36 times, their most in any month since hitting 39 in June 2006.
“Just taking advantage of playing time and just keep swinging,” Bay said.
Harang, who spun a four-hit shutout of San Diego on Monday, allowed only four hits and two runs while striking out four over six innings. One of the runs was unearned.
With runners at the corners, the right-hander fielded a comebacker and had Chris Parmelee caught between third and home. But Harang failed to set his feet and sent a soft throw sailing over catcher Kelly Shoppach’s head for an error and an easy run for the Twins.
The Mariners have brought up RHP Jeremy Bonderman to start Sunday’s game, which will mark the 30-year-old’s first major league appearance since 2010. He was signed to a minor-league contract before the season. Bonderman’s career with Detroit was waylaid by shoulder problems. Then he had Tommy John reconstructive elbow surgery last year. … LHP Scott Diamond (3-4, 5.22), who is winless in his last four starts, will take his turn for the Twins. … The Mariners will have to make a roster move to clear room for Bonderman. … The Mariners left 1B Justin Smoak (right oblique) and RF Michael Morse (right quadriceps) on the bench again. Smoak has one pinch-hit at-bat in the last seven games. Morse has missed four straight games. Wedge said he hoped to play Smoak on Sunday, but Morse won’t be ready.
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