Mariners unable to surmount late rallies
Seattle allows lead to slip away in extra-inning matchup
TORONTO -- Ichiro Suzuki has spent the past 7 1/2 seasons in the Major Leagues making highlight-reel catches look easy.
The seven-time Gold Glove winner is one of the best defensive players in the game, and he has made a habit out of saving runs for Seattle's pitching staff.
On Friday night, though, for the first time in recent memory, Ichiro was unable to come up with the timely catch -- and it ended up costing his team the game.
With the bases loaded in the top of the 10th inning, Seattle's star outfielder had a scorching line drive bounce off the top of his glove, sending the Mariners to their sixth straight loss.
"It's a tough play," Seattle manager Jim Riggleman said after his team dropped the opener of a three-game set to the Blue Jays, 5-4. "If it's a fly ball, you're on it, but when it's a line drive with top spin, it's a tougher play. He gave it everything he had. He just didn't catch it."
After outfielder Jeremy Reed hit an RBI single in the top of the 10th inning, the Mariners headed into the bottom of the frame clinging to a one-run lead. Right-hander Mark Lowe -- the only man left in the Seattle bullpen after the team had used six relievers -- was called on to record his second save of the season.
After allowing the first two batters he faced to reach base, Lowe retired Toronto's Scott Rolen and Adam Lind to put Seattle one out away from its fourth victory in 15 games. But just when things started looking good for the Mariners, everything came crashing down in a blink of an eye.
Lowe walked former Mariner Brad Wilkerson to load the bases and put the winning run on second base for Joe Inglett. Despite entering the game with just 13 extra-base hits this season, the Blue Jays' leadoff man turned on the first pitch he saw from Lowe and lined a shot into deep right field.
Ichiro quickly moved back towards the warning track, but when he jumped to make the catch, the ball ricocheted off his glove and dropped to the ground. Two runs scored and, for the second consecutive game, the Mariners found themselves on the losing end of a dramatic extra-innings affair.
Afterwards, Ichiro didn't make any excuses, and said through an interpreter that he thought he got a good read on the ball and properly timed his jump.
"I have to catch it because it touched my glove," Ichiro said. "I know the reasons why I made the end result, so inside my mind I've already organized the play and what happened."
The Mariners looked to be in control of the game from the outset. They scored one run in the second and two in the third off RBIs from Adrian Beltre, Jose Lopez and Kenji Johjima.
For a while that looked like all the offense the Mariners were going to need. Starting pitcher Miguel Batista looked solid through his 5 1/3 innings of work. He surrendered just two earned runs on five hits while striking out a pair. One of his few mistakes in the game came in the top of the second, when he surrendered a solo home run to designated hitter Matt Stairs.
Seattle used four relievers to keep a 3-2 lead intact and set the table for J.J. Putz. The burly right-hander, who was making his third appearance since being activated from the 15-day disabled list after a hyperextended right elbow, immediately pitched himself into trouble by allowing a leadoff double to Toronto's Lyle Overbay.
Back-to-back singles off the bats of Rod Barajas and Stairs allowed Overbay to score. Putz was able to get out of the inning without allowing any more runners to score, but the damage had already been done and the game was soon headed for extra innings.
"The first couple of hitters the split [split-finger fastball] was really flat and didn't have any bite on it at all," Putz said of the pitch that did him in. "It's one of those things, when it's not doing it's supposed to, then it's a very ineffective pitch."
With the loss, the Mariners drop to 2-6 this season in extra-inning games and 11-20 in one-run matchups.
Gregor Chisholm is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.