Mariners' six-game winning streak snapped
The go-ahead run scores on a balk by starting pitcher Doug Fister and the Mariners lose 4-2 in Minnesota.
Seattle Times staff reporter
Mariners @ Minnesota, 10:10 a.m., ROOT
MINNEAPOLIS — When it was finally over, Mariners pitcher Doug Fister still didn't have an explanation for the balk call that sealed the unraveling of his team's six-game winning streak.
But perhaps he didn't really need one. The seeds to what became a 4-2 loss to the Minnesota Twins on Tuesday night had already been sown through a seventh inning in which the Mariners did the exact opposite of what had enabled them to pile up wins in the first place.
They failed to execute offensively with the score tied, then came undone on the defensive end in the bottom of the frame and let the home side cruise from there behind the complete-game pitching of Nick Blackburn.
"I'm still not really sure what happened there," Mariners shortstop Brendan Ryan said of the balk call, which allowed the go-ahead run to score from third.
Ryan was one of a handful of Mariners who got the job done, with three infield singles. Miguel Olivo was also a force, hitting the tying two-run homer in the fourth inning and then making it to third with one out in the seventh after a double.
But Carlos Peguero swung at an 0-2 pitch and hit a broken-bat grounder to second baseman Alexi Casilla, who fired home. Olivo was running on contact and barreled into catcher Rene Rivera, who held the ball despite taking a partial elbow to the mask.
Ryan singled to put two on after that. But Michael Saunders went down swinging and Blackburn retired the next six in a row to complete his 127-pitch, nine-inning effort.
"We're not going to mope around too much," Ryan said. "We've had a nice run. And we thought we could have won that game, too. So be it."
But it just wasn't to be during a bottom of the seventh in which the Mariners constantly seemed a step or two behind defensively.
With one out, Ichiro slowed up on a ball hit down the line in shallow right field and let it drop a few feet in front of him for a Rivera single. Rivera then took third on a line drive off the right-field wall, but a decoy move by Ichiro — who pretended he had a shot at catching it — faked out hitter Casilla enough that he had to stop at first base.
Then came the balk, called by first base umpire Alfonso Marquez after Fister feinted a throw over to third, then spun and heaved the ball to first. Marquez immediately made the call — seeming to suggest Fister hadn't stepped all the way toward third — enabling Rivera to score and Casilla to take second.
"I still haven't gotten an explanation for what happened," said Fister, pulled two outs into that seventh. "I've been called on a balk before. Just not on a play like that. But it's up to his interpretation."
The balk positioned Casilla to score on a double lined to left field by the speedy Denard Span — who had tripled and scored in the first. Peguero cut the ball off before it reached the corner and came up throwing, though he had no real shot at Casilla.
Chone Figgins attempted to cut it off, but it bounced by him. Olivo was backing the play up, but had the ball roll through his legs for an error that sent Span to third.
Span was stranded but the non-plays underscored how the Mariners that inning looked nothing like what they'd been during the streak.
Mariners manager Eric Wedge planned to speak to the umpires before the night was over to get an explanation on the balk. Wedge wasn't critical of his players, noting their stellar recent play and the fact Adam Kennedy tattooed a pair of pitches that could have been doubles and changed innings had right fielder Jason Kubel not caught them.
"I felt like we swung the bats better than what the linescore indicated," Wedge said. "But hey, that's baseball. They tracked the ball down in the outfield out there and did a great job. We had some opportunities. We just didn't finish off innings."
Geoff Baker: 206-464-8286 or firstname.lastname@example.orgWednesday
Mariners @ Minnesota, 10:10 a.m., ROOT