Mariners fall in extras to Kansas City
Royals overcome Hernandez's eight strong innings
KANSAS CITY -- Mariners manager John McLaren wanted Brandon Morrow to throw pitches in the dirt and out of the strike zone to Emil Brown. Morrow, unaware of this strategic move, thought he was supposed to throw fastballs.
The discrepancy helped Seattle lose, 3-2, to the Royals in 11 innings on Monday night at Kauffman Stadium. It gave McLaren a loss in his first game since Mike Hargrove resigned as Seattle's skipper and ended the Mariners' season-high eight-game winning streak. The team fell to 4 1/2 games back of the Angels in the AL West.
"It would be nice to win tonight," McLaren said. "That was a pretty intense game to be honest with you."
McLaren has repeatedly called the last few days a "whirlwind." That word could aptly describe Monday's finish as well.
After Felix Hernandez tossed eight innings of two-run ball, the Mariners' bullpen held the 2-2 stalemate until the 11th. Both teams enjoyed several chances to break the draw, but the Royals finally broke through in the 11th, an inning marked for one defensive misplay and one strategic misunderstanding.
David DeJesus ripped a leadoff line drive to right field against Morrow. Jose Guillen, playing back, ran in and misjudged the play. The ball flew over his head and went all the way to the wall. DeJesus ended up at second base.
"The ball jumped off his bat like he was one of those power hitters," Guillen said. "I thought he would have 20 homers, 30 homers. I was shocked to see that he had [five] homers. It's amazing when I saw the ball jump off his bat. I should have gotten a better read on that ball. ... That was a tough one. I can take the blame for this one, why not? I should have made that play."
Esteban German tried to sacrifice bunt but Morrow walked him on four straight pitches. Mark Teahen sacrificed the runners to second and third for Brown. In the ninth inning, Brown struck out when Sean Green delivered several pitches in the dirt and down in the strike zone.
McLaren wanted the same approach.
"We wanted to put Brown on," McLaren said. "We were going to try and make him swing at bad pitches and get him overanxious and throw splits in the dirt like he struck out before. It just didn't work out."
No one told Morrow.
"I don't know," he said. "We didn't really talk about it. I thought it was the right move to go after the righty. Righty-righty matchup."
Morrow wanted to throw his fastball, his best pitch. Kenji Johjima called for a split-finger, a pitch that would be down in the zone and likely in the dirt. But Morrow, unaware of the ploy, shook off Johjima until he got a fastball.
"I thought they wanted me to attack the righty, since they decided to go righty-righty," Morrow said.
Morrow threw a fastball that missed inside. The next pitch was also a fastball, a fastball that stayed up.
Brown blasted the pitch to deep center field, deep enough to easily score DeJesus from third base for the game-winning run. The loss bumped Morrow's record to 3-2 and raised his ERA to 3.77, his highest since April 26. Morrow has seen his ERA rise from 1.59 to 3.77 since June 8.
"I guess he is a good fastball hitter, and I threw him a fastball and he hit it," Morrow said. "I don't want to say it would have turned out differently if I had thrown a split."
The pitch ended a poor offensive night for the Mariners. Averaging nearly six runs a game during their winning streak, Seattle notched just two runs against Gil Meche and several Royal relievers. They scored off Meche -- the Royals' All-Star and former Mariner -- in the first and third innings.
After Ichiro Sukuzi's single in the fifth, Seattle didn't have another hit until Ben Broussard lofted a single over Alex Gordon's head at third base with one out in the 11th. Johjima followed with another single, but Octavio Dotel struck out Adrian Beltre and Jose Lopez to end the threat.
"We just didn't swing the bats good," McLaren said. "Their pitchers did a nice job. There was velocity on the board. ... Dotel looks like Dotel, he is throwing that ball up there 96, 97 miles per hour. Give them credit where it is due."
The Royals had runners in scoring position and less than two out in the ninth and 10th innings but a quartet of relievers coaxed several key outs. J.J. Putz, the Mariners' All-Star closer and the American League Pitcher of the Month, wasn't used.
"He was not going to make an appearance tonight," the manager said. "He's fine. We have used him a lot and we used good sense about it. He has done a great job for us and he was unavailable tonight."
And Seattle stuck with Morrow in the 11th, an inning that helped drop McLaren to 0-1 as a manager.
Conor Nicholl is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.