08/24/2002 01:33 am ET
Mariners fall short against Indians
By Jim Street / MLB.com
CLEVELAND -- Since the second week of the regular season, the Mariners have repeatedly repelled every challenge in their familiar role as AL West leaders. But they now have a number below the "GB" in the standings.
The number is one -- as in the Mariners trail the Athletics by one game heading into the final 35 games of the season. They are still tops in the Wild Card race, but being chased by the Angels and Red Sox in another close race for a playoff spot.
After getting a start worthy of another victory from right-hander Joel Pineiro on Friday night, the Mariners seemingly weathered a storm, coming out of a 2:10 rain delay by scoring two runs in the seventh inning.
At the time, it appeared the scoring chances that were botched in the second, third and fourth innings wouldn't be so bad. In the end, though, those missed chances, poor defense and a shaky relief from both Shigetoshi Hasegawa and starter-turned-reliever James Baldwin turned into a 4-2 loss to the Indians.
Gold Glove right fielder Ichiro Suzuki couldn't catch a long drive hit by Greg LaRocca in the seventh inning. The ball hit off Ichiro's glove, putting runners on second and third with none out. The Mariners nearly got out of the inning with the lead, but didn't.
After Josh Bard -- making his MLB debut -- grounded out to score a run, reliever Arthur Rhodes came in to strike out pinch-hitting Travis Fryman and quickly got two strikes on leadoff hitter Coco Crisp, who then hit a slow roller to shortstop.
Guillen tried to make a spectacular play and didn't pull it off.
"I shouldn't have thrown the ball," he said. "My fault."
Guillen barehanded the ball, but made a wild throw past first baseman Jose Offerman, allowing the game-tying run to score.
Two innings later, only a small portion of the original 33,535 were still around at the end, when Baldwin, making his first relief appearance of the season, walked the first batter he faced, fell behind the second batter he faced and then twisted his neck, watching Bard hit his first Major League home run.
"Every loss is bad," said Baldwin, who now has 10 of them this season. ""I don't know what's going on right now. I am working with Bryan [pitching coach Bryan Price], but I'm not getting it done. Nothing is working."
The Mariners lost for the third time in five games on this road trip -- a trek that was supposed to enhance their grip on first place. The Tigers and Indians are playing out the season, but obviously not throwing in the towel.
And as much as the Mariners don't want to spend much time watching what the Athletics are doing -- they are aware.
"Oakland is playing great baseball," second baseman Bret Boone said. "They've won 10 straight. We can do that."
That is true, but time is running out on doing it.
The way the Mariners have played lately, falling out of first place was bound to happen.
Seattle replaced the A's atop the AL West on April 8 and had at least a share of first place every day since. The Angels made a charge and caught the Mariners, but never had more than a .002 percentage lead.
After Bard's walk-off homer shortly after midnight beat the Mariners, the Athletics wrapped up an easy win over the Tigers in Detroit -- in a game that was delayed almost two hours at the start because of the same storm that eventually dumped on Cleveland.
During the night segment of the Mariners game, Pineiro was brilliant, especially in the fifth inning when he worked out of a bases-loaded, no-out jam. It came at a time when the rain was barreling down on Jacobs Field and even one run might have been enough to win.
But Pineiro never allowed the ball out of the infield in getting three straight outs.
Seattle also loaded the bases and didn't score despite having Edgar Martinez come to bat with the bags full of Mariners and only one out. Edgar popped out.
"That was the big at-bat for me," Martinez said. "He [C.C. Sabathia] got ahead of me and I hit a pitch inside, off the plate."
Sabathia struck out Mike Cameron to end the threat.
Martinez knew it was a tough loss.
"All games are important right now. It was a good game, but we came up short."
Said Boone, "It was a tough loss. Anytime you wait around like that, come out and get the lead and not win, it's tough. But we have to come back and win the next two."
Jim Street covers the Mariners for MLB.com and can be reached at email@example.com. This story was not subject to the approval of MLB or its clubs.