CHICAGO -- When Tom Wilhelmsen lost the game in the ninth inning of Friday's 9-8 setback to the White Sox, it was just his second blown save since taking over as the Mariners closer at the start of June.
Wilhelmsen, 28, has 19 saves and a 1.51 ERA in 32 appearances since replacing Brandon League. His only previous blown save came July 6, when he entered in the eighth with a 1-0 lead and allowed a run in a game the Mariners wound up losing in 11 innings.
The two runs in Friday's loss were the most he's allowed since becoming closer and the three hits were the first time he's given up more than two in a single-inning appearance. But the thing Wilhelmsen was kicking himself for was walking Dewayne Wise on four pitches after Gordon Beckham singled to short to start the inning.
What happened in that wild ninth inning after Seattle had rallied with six runs to take the lead in the top of the frame?
"They hit the pitches that I threw," Wilhelmsen said simply. "But you can't walk the go-ahead runner and I did that."
After Kevin Youkilis singled to tie the game, Paul Konerko ended it with a single that slipped out of right fielder Eric Thames' glove after he and center fielder Michael Saunders collided as both went for the line drive in the gap.
"That ball was driven pretty well," said Wilhelmsen. "It didn't look to me like either one had a shot, so I was really impressed with their effort. It was enough to get the guy in."
Manager Eric Wedge chalked it up as a tough learning experience for the first-year closer, including the knowledge that he couldn't afford the walk to Wise that ended up being the winning run.
"He understands the gig," Wedge said. "That's where you really put your back up against the wall in that situation. But you know what? You hate for him and for us to have the game end the way it did, but he'll be better for it. When that inning started, he wasn't even thinking about being in the game. The emotional range was from one extreme to the other. He'll be better for it. That's the first time he's had to do that."
Thames, Saunders sit out after collision
CHICAGO -- Center fielder Michael Saunders and right fielder Eric Thames were both out of the lineup Saturday after the two collided on the final play of Friday's 9-8 Mariners loss to the White Sox.
Saunders injured his groin muscle slightly as the two crashed together and was receiving treatment prior to Saturday night's game at U.S. Cellular Field.
"Thames is OK. Saunders has a little bit of groin," manager Eric Wedge said. "When they hit out there, he kind of stuck and turned in a way that was kind of funky. He'll be a game-time decision in regard to his availability. Eric is good to go, but they've got a lefty in there tonight so we've got our other guys in there."
Chone Figgins got the start in center field, with Casper Wells in right field.
Thames said he could have played, though he was pretty banged up. He had the ball in his glove on Paul Konerko's smash to the right-center-field fence, but it popped loose as Saunders crashed into him just as they both reached the fence.
"My pride is a little hurt, but I'm all right," he said. "Our heads are good, that's the scariest part. My shoulder and legs are banged up, but it's OK. I feel like I was in a car accident. It makes me respect the rugby guys a little more. But we're good."
Thames was still reliving the moment a day later, calling it "a tough pill to swallow." He said he saw Saunders at the last second, but was committed at that point to making the play.
"I don't want to say I expected it because we were both screaming, but we couldn't hear each other," Thames said. "I don't know if he's going to get it, so I have to go for it. Then he's about two feet away, I caught it and next thing I know we're on the ground face down and the ball is rolling toward second base. It happened so fast, but he got the brunt of it. It happened so fast, that's all I can say."
What hurt more was that Konerko passed the baserunner who was tagging up at first and could have been called out for a double play if Thames had held onto the ball, which would have sent the game into extra innings tied at 8.Thames entered Friday's 5-4 loss in the eighth inning as a pinch-hitter and singled. He then played right field.
Home run numbers inconsistent, but climbing
CHICAGO -- When Trayvon Robinson and Jesus Montero hit home runs in Friday's 9-8 loss, it increased the Mariners' season total to 111 long balls. The significance?
That's two more than Seattle hit during the entire 2011 season. With 36 games remaining, the Mariners are on pace for 143 home runs, which would be their fourth-highest total in the past 10 years.
They're on pace for 93 road homers, which would be their most away from Safeco Field since 2000, when they hit 106.
The Mariners still rank 12th of 14 American League teams in home runs, but they're definitely taking a step up from the previous few years even without a dominant slugger in the middle of their lineup.
Going into Saturday night's game with the White Sox, three players -- Montero, Michael Saunders and Justin Smoak -- were tied for the team lead with 14 home runs. Kyle Seager then hit two homers in Friday's 5-4 loss to claim the top spot with 15 homers.
"We've seen it most of the year, albeit it inconsistent," manager Eric Wedge said of the team's increased power potential. "It's nowhere near as good as it's going to get, but you're seeing more consistency with the long ball, with better ABs, with hard balls that are being hit. We scored six runs in the top of the ninth last night, that's not easy to do up here against a first-place club."
Former Mariners reliever David Pauley, now pitching for Triple-A Tacoma, has been suspended for 50 games without pay following a second violation for a drug of abuse, according to the Commissioner's Office.
Pauley, who re-signed with the Mariners at midseason after being traded to the Tigers last year, had been pitching well for the Rainiers with a 3.14 ERA in 11 appearances. The suspension was not for steroids or performance enhancers, but for an unspecified recreational drug.
Top Mariners prospect Danny Hultzen lasted just two-thirds of an inning Friday for Triple-A Tacoma, giving up four runs on two hits and four walks against Las Vegas. The 2011 first-round Draft pick is 1-3 with a 5.14 ERA in nine starts since being promoted from Double-A Jackson.
Franklin Gutierrez went 1-for-4 for Tacoma on Friday and is hitting .333 with eight RBIs in six games for the Rainiers as he returns from a concussion.