It rains, it pours as missed call foils M's
Seattle Times staff reporter
WP: Proctor (3-2)
LP: Mateo (5-4)
Today: M's at Yankees, 10:05 a.m., no TV
Starting pitchers: M's Gil Meche (9-4) vs. Randy Johnson (10-7)
NEW YORK — With the Mariners on the edge of a solid 4-2 win over the Yankees on Tuesday night, fate and the furies stepped in at Yankee Stadium and stepped all over them and their expectations.
In the middle of the maelstrom — which included a drenching downpour that halted the game for an hour and 58 minutes with two outs in the ninth inning, a 4-4 tie and a 3-1 count on Alex Rodriguez — stood a sodden Mike Reilly.
The veteran umpire blew a call — there is no other way to describe it — at first base that cost Seattle its chance to win a game that it eventually lost 5-4 on Melky Cabrera's leadoff homer in the 11th inning. Cabrera's homer came off reliever Julio Mateo, who came in after the deluge and struck out A-Rod to complete the two-hour at-bat.
"It is our third extra-inning loss on this trip," said Mariners manager Mike Hargrove, who was tossed for the third time this year for arguing Reilly's safe call. "That is frustrating enough. A break here and there, and it would be a different scenario. But to lose a game you obviously should have won, makes it even more frustrating."
Hargrove refused to comment on Reilly, "because what I say would not be good and would just get me in trouble."
How the game got into extra innings has to be one of the more cutting twists of the knife in a Mariners history fraught with cutting memories.
After Seattle starter Joel Pineiro had made Richie Sexson's three-run homer stand up for six innings, Pineiro's best start in a month and a half, the bullpen did its usual super job in putting a 4-2 lead into the hands of closer J.J. Putz to start the ninth.
But with rain starting to pour, the Yankees' Andy Phillips led off with a double down the right-field line, and with one out Aaron Guiel hit a pinch single to cut Seattle's lead to 4-3.
With the rain affecting his usual domination, Putz ran the count to 3-0 on Jorge Posada, the last a wild pitch that let pinch runner Bubba Crosby move to second. Thus, the Mariners hurt themselves and made themselves vulnerable to Reilly's missed call.
"I have pitched in worse; I pitched in snow in high school," Putz said. "There were a couple of pitches affected by the wetness of the ball, including that wild pitch. It got better when I hunched over and kept the ball in front of me to keep it drier."
The twist came when Posada grounded a 3-2 pitch to the right side. M's second baseman Jose Lopez, sliding on the wet grass, ran the ball down, got up and had to re-grip the ball. All this made the play much closer than it should have been. Still, Lopez's at-last throw clearly beat Posada to the bag, but Reilly, usually right, got it wrong.
Putz said much of the team came into the clubhouse and looked at replays as soon as the rain delay began. Hargrove said, "I didn't need a replay. I saw it for myself. But out there, Reilly told me he got it right."
The key here is that Reilly's call allowed Crosby to advance to third base with only one out. Knowing how crushing this might be, Putz and first baseman Sexson immediately began to protest, so vehemently that Sexson, with the ball still in his glove, forgot to call time for a few seconds.
"He told me to get back on the mound, he got it right," Putz said. "I kept arguing, until Richie pulled me away."
Hargrove rushed out of the dugout and got in Reilly's face for more than a few decidedly un-nice comments. He finally said something extra uncomplimentary and got tossed.
With 60 strikeouts in 44 innings this season, Putz needed a K more than ever, but he could not get one. Fate's train had runaway momentum, and there was no stopping it.
Johnny Damon, who struck out in two of his three previous at-bats, flied deep to center and Crosby trotted home to tie the score, 4-4.
"It's tough, you make a pitch, you should get an out," Putz said. "But it happens. You've got to live with it."
Bob Finnigan: 206-464-8276 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company