SEATTLE -- The Mariners got something they wanted Tuesday night in the form of a breakout with their bats. What they didn't get was what they wanted the most: a victory.
Despite a six-run inning and a one-time seven-run lead, the Cleveland Indians were a tad more relentless on the offensive end of things, and Seattle dropped a wild 9-8 decision in Safeco Field.
Even in the bottom of the ninth, the Mariners wouldn't go away. They loaded the bases against Indians closer Chris Perez, taking advantage of a bad hop on a Jesus Montero grounder that hit Cleveland shortstop Jason Donald in the face and caromed into center field, erasing a possible double play that would have ended the game. But the Mariners ended up taking this one on the chin when John Jaso flied out to right field to end it.
"It's always hard to swallow when you lose -- especially a close one like that," said Mariners first baseman Justin Smoak, who had a four-hit night for the first time in his career. "It's one of those things where we had a game plan against [Tribe starter Justin] Masterson and we had that big inning and put up some runs and really weren't able to do much after that."
That big inning was the fourth.
The Mariners had already taken a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the third when Jaso took Masterson deep into the right-field seats for a two-run home run, and Seattle poured it on in the next frame against the Cleveland right-hander by batting around.
Smoak stroked a single to get it started, and after Kyle Seager and Michael Saunders added singles to load the bases, the Mariners took advantage of opportunities. Brendan Ryan worked a walk to make it 3-1, Jaso was hit by a pitch to up the lead to 4-1, Chone Figgins added a sacrifice fly, Ichiro Suzuki singled in two more runs and Smoak pushed another across with his second hit of the inning, chasing Masterson.
"I think it was pretty incredible when they scored all the runs," Masterson said of his opponent. "Then I was like, 'We're at least going to get six or seven.' I mean, I didn't necessarily think in that next inning ..."
But Masterson proved prescient. The 8-1 lead was not safe and didn't last long.
The Indians immediately went into attack mode against Seattle starter Kevin Millwood, stringing together an opportunistic inning much like the one they had just suffered.
Jack Hannahan doubled, Donald singled, and a fielding error by Ryan allowed one run to score. Jason Kipnis then singled to load the bases, Shin-Soo Choo's two-run single made it 8-4, and Carlos Santana unloaded with a towering home run to right field that cut the Mariners' advantage to 8-7 and ended Millwood's night early.
Rookie right-hander Erasmo Ramirez entered the game and walked Shelley Duncan before giving up a double to Casey Kotchman and walking Hannahan to load the bases again, and Donald's sacrifice fly brought the Indians all the way back at 8-8.
Millwood, who threw 83 pitches in his four innings, said sitting through his team's long, productive half of the fourth and then having to recharge for the fifth wasn't the problem.
"I'll sit there for an hour and a half if they score runs," Millwood said. "From the first inning on, nothing was going good. I wasn't locating my fastball, my breaking ball wasn't very good, I didn't know where it was going, so it was pretty much a battle every inning just to get an out."
Things settled down for a bit as the game became a battle of bullpens, but the Indians got the last laugh in the top of the seventh when Donald hit a two-out RBI single to give Cleveland a 9-8 lead. That held up, with Vinnie Pestano pitching a shutout eighth and Perez escaping the bases-loaded jam in a scoreless ninth to close out the Mariners.
Despite the loss, Seattle reached a few milestones. Ryan worked four walks in a game for the first time in his career, or, as Mariners manager Eric Wedge said with a smile, "I'm sure he's never done that in his life." And for the sake of local history, it was interesting to note that Seager's single to right field in the fourth was the 50,000th hit in Mariners history and Ryan's RBI walk in the fourth scored the 25,000th run in Mariners history.
None of it mattered much when the team fell back to 6-6 with a hard-fought, three-hour-and-33-minute loss, but Wedge was willing to look at the positives, which included a season-high-tying eight runs and 10 hits.
"It's some hit and miss right now, but ... right now everybody's on their own program to push forward and get better," Wedge said.
"We're pushing in that direction."