Bullpen struggles in loss to Texas

Bullpen struggles in loss to Texas

ARLINGTON -- The Mariners played another close game on Wednesday night, and absorbed another tough loss.

This time, a trio of full-count walks, including one that eventually led to left-handed reliever Arthur Rhodes being ejected, and a sacrifice fly sent the Mariners to another one-run loss -- a 4-3 decision to the Rangers in front of 23,894 at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington.

"We are going through a tough time," manager Jim Riggleman said. "They say a man's character is judged during bad times, not good times, and we're getting sorely tested here."

The Mariners (40-67) have lost two consecutive one-run decisions to the Rangers in this four-game series, and are now 11-22 in one-run games this season. Seattle also is 9-13 in games decided by two runs, which means almost half of the losses are in games that could have been won with just a little more offense, a little better defense, or a tad bit better pitching.

All three factors were apparent on Wednesday night.

The Mariners had the bases loaded with none out in the seventh inning of a tie game, and didn't score. A wild throw by catcher Kenji Johjima trying to prevent a stolen base in the sixth inning allowed the tying run to score.

The decisive, three-walk eighth inning, put the icing on the cake.

After walking David Murphy and Josh Hamilton with one out in the eighth inning, Rhodes thought his full-count slider to Marlon Byrd was a strike. Home-plate umpire Paul Nauert called it a ball, and the Mariners' veteran reliever seethed as he walked around the mound.

Shortstop Willie Bloomquist went to the mound for a chat.

"I went to ask him where he wanted me to play on the next hitter," Bloomquist said. "That, and somewhat to see if I could say something to calm him down. That was a tough break in a tough situation. Arthur is a competitor, and he knows he made a pretty good pitch right there, and the call didn't go his way."

Rhodes eventually gathered his composure and faced pinch-hitter Michael Young, who lofted a fly ball to center field, deep enough to score Murphy for the go-ahead run.

Before throwing another pitch, Rhodes said something to Nauert, and was ejected.

"I am not going to comment, but you have to make those calls out there," Rhodes said. "I am out there making good pitches, the ball is going over the plate, and [the umpire] should call it. I try to be good [and composed] on the mound, but tonight it didn't happen."

The run Young's fly ball produced ended Rhodes' streak of consecutive scoreless appearances at 18 (11 2/3 innings).

He did not take it well.

"My teammates probably have never seen me fired up like that," he said. "But I did what I had to do, and that's it."

A veteran of 16 MLB seasons, Rhodes can't recall any team he has been with go through tough times like this Mariners have this season.

"Not really," he said. "This whole team is in a funk right now, and once you get into one, it's tough to get out. But you have to keep playing, the whole year. There are two months left and we have to keep going with our heads up."

The team could be punch-drunk by now.

"I know you are tired of hearing it," Riggleman said, "But they are aching. We play close games every night, and it seems like something goes the wrong way and we lose. They see it happening night after night. They're agonizing over it, and I'm glad they are.

"It's hurting them, the coaching staff, everybody."

The solution?

"We can't keep forcing these games, where close calls determine them," he said. "We have to break them open a little bit."

The Mariners had a chance to do that in the seventh inning, when Bloomquist and Ichiro Suzuki reached on infield singles and Jeremy Reed was hit by a pitch.

Raul Ibanez hit a fly ball to right-center field.

Bloomquist tagged up at third and tried to put the Mariners back in front, but he was nailed at the plate on a strong, accurate throw from right fielder David Murphy.

"I was glad to see [third-base coach Sam Perlozzo] send him," Riggleman said. "Murphy made a heckuva throw. Not only was it on line, but [he] didn't give the catcher an in-between hop. He gave him something he could handle and put the tag on."

The play kept the game deadlocked, and Adrian Beltre struck out to end the inning.

"I thought I was going to make it," Bloomquist said. "I had a good jump and he has an average arm. It was a medium fly ball, depth-wise. I knew he had to make a perfect throw to get me, and he did."

An imperfect throw by Johjima in the sixth cost Seattle its second lead of the game. The Rangers had runners on first and third with two outs when Brandon Boggs attempted to steal second.

He made it, thanks to Johjima's errant toss, which sailed into center field, scoring Murphy from third.

Until that peg, the Mariners' defense had been spectacular.

The Mariners took a 3-2 lead in the top of the fifth inning on Jose Lopez's RBI single to left field, and kept the lead in the bottom of the inning, thanks to a textbook relay play that nailed the tying run at the plate.

Jarrod Saltalamacchia singled and tried to score on a one-out double to left field. Ibanez barehanded the ball after it caromed off the wall. Bloomquist snagged Ibanez's throw, wheeled and threw a strike to Johjima, who barely had to move his glove as he tagged Saltalamacchia's arm.

Earlier in the game, Ibanez saved at least two runs in the second inning, making a fence-jarring, over-the-shoulder catch, robbing Ian Kinsler of extra-bases. No sooner had the ball settled into Ibanez's glove the veteran outfielder slammed headfirst into the fence in left-center field.

Even on a night when Ichiro added three more hits, Lopez extended his career-high hitting streak to 17 games and Seattle received a hearty outing from right-handed starter Miguel Batista, who held the Rangers to two earned runs over six innings, the Mariners sustained another loss.

For the 67th time.

Jim Street is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.