CLEVELAND – Two ninth-inning losses in two days have left the Seattle Mariners reeling and frustrated.
Mark Reynolds’ bases-loaded fielder’s choice in the ninth inning Saturday scored Jason Kipnis and gave the Cleveland Indians a 5-4 victory over Seattle.
The Mariners had tied the score in the top of the ninth on two-out home runs by Raul Ibanez and Justin Smoak off Indians closer Chris Perez, but lost in heartbreaking fashion for the second time in less than 24 hours.
On Friday night, Kipnis hit a game-ending three-run homer in the 10th inning to give Cleveland a 6-3 win.
“You don’t see that very often, to hit two solo homers off a top closer like Perez, then they come back and snatch it in the bottom of the inning,” Seattle manager Eric Wedge said, shaking his head. “This was a tough one.”
Mariners reliever Oliver Perez (1-1) started the ninth, but allowed all three Indians he faced to reach base. The veteran left-hander surrendered a single to Kipnis and a double to Asdrubal Cabrera after going up 0-2 to both hitters, then intentionally walked Nick Swisher to load the bases.
Rookie Yoervis Medina entered and Reynolds hit a sharp grounder to shortstop Brendan Ryan, but catcher Jesus Montero came off home plate after taking the throw. Kipnis scored standing up, making Chris Perez (2-0) the winner after blowing the save minutes earlier.
“I thought I had him,” said Ryan, whose right knee was bloodied while making the stop. “I haven’t seen the replay, so I don’t know exactly what happened, but I did the best I could.”
Wedge had plenty to say, especially about Montero’s inability to record the force out.
“The throw beat him, but Monty came off the plate early,” said Wedge, a former major league catcher. “You have to stand on the plate, but he came out a little bit early. We got the ground ball we wanted – Ryno made a great play – but we didn’t get it done.”
Montero said Ryan’s throw pulled him slightly toward first base, which was enough to slide his left foot onto the dirt.
“Brendan made an unbelievable diving catch and I tried hard to stay on the plate,” said Montero. “We usually block the plate, but the ball was a little too far and I couldn’t do it.”
The Mariners trailed 4-0 when starter Joe Saunders was pulled after 5 1/3 innings and a season-high 120 pitches. The lefty was rocked for 11 hits, including a home run by Reynolds in the fifth, and remained winless on the road in 2013.
Saunders is 0-4 with an 11.25 ERA in away games, but a sparkling 3-0 with an 0.94 ERA at Safeco Field.
“I’m gonna sacrifice a chicken before my next road start. … This is just kind of a fluky thing,” Saunders said.