The Giants couldn’t have asked for anyone else at the plate.
Melky Cabrera was up with the bases loaded and one out. This time, the National League’s leading hitter couldn’t come through, striking out on three pitches.
While Cabrera failed, Justin Smoak didn’t for the Mariners in the bottom of the ninth, hitting a one-out single off Javier Lopez to give Seattle a 2-1 win over the Giants on Sunday.
Seattle closer Tom Wilhelmsen walked Pablo Sandoval on four pitches to load the bases with one out in the ninth, bringing Cabrera up. After fouling off the first two fastballs, Cabrera’s foul tip of a fastball was hung on to by catcher Miguel Olivo.
“We had the right guy up, he’s done it,” San Francisco manager Bruce Bochy said. “The ninth inning was the difference. It was the golden opportunity, but we didn’t quite get it done and they got the big hit.”
Wilhelmsen (3-1) then got pinch-hitter Nate Schierholtz to ground out to second to end his most pressure-filled outing since recording his first career save June 5.
“Holy cow,” Wilhelmsen said. “Got pretty intense there for a little but, huh?”
That allowed the opportunity for Smoak. San Francisco reliever Sergio Romo (2-1) gave up back-to-back singles to Kyle Seager and Jesus Montero to open the ninth before being replaced by Lopez. After pinch-hitter Michael Saunders failed to bunt the runners over, Smoak lined the game-winning single to left.
A tense ninth inning finally settled what starters Madison Bumgarner and Felix Hernandez could not. Each were dominant.
Bumgarner allowed just three hits in his eight innings. He struck out four and walked one, retiring 18 consecutive batters at one point.
“I felt good after the first couple innings,” Bumgarner said. “I started off a little slow, but pretty much was still able to make pitches.
“Everything felt pretty good.”
Hernandez, who had been struggling, threw seven innings, allowed one run, struck out seven and walked one.
He tinkered with his mound stance during his bullpen work earlier in the week, trying to find a remedy for his recent woes. Hernandez’s ERA was 6.36 over his previous six starts, during which he was 1-4.
Yet, a bumpy first ensued. Hernandez escaped the first allowing just one run, despite three hits and a walk. Sandoval, Cabrera and Angel Pagan singled. Pagan’s hit landed just on the outfield grass to score Sandoval.
Hector Sanchez flew out to center with the bases loaded to end the inning on Hernandez’s 30th pitch.
He and Bumgarner cruised to the late innings before finally being challenged.
Brandon Crawford led off the seventh with the first hit against Hernandez since the third inning. He was thrown out when Emmanuel Burriss’ bunt was scooped up and thrown to second by catcher Miguel Olivo. Hernandez dove to his stomach to avoid Olivo’s throw and Olivo ended up on the ground a couple feet away from him after tumbling on the follow through.
Hernandez struck out Sandoval with his 113th pitch to end the threat.
Bumgarner walked Dustin Ackley with one out in the eighth to end a streak of 18 consecutive retired. Brendan Ryan followed with a single before Bumgarner navigated out of trouble by getting a groundout from Ichiro Suzuki and striking out Franklin Gutierrez.
With two on and two out in the eighth, Smoak dove to his right at first to smother a crisp grounder from Sanchez. Smoak flipped to Brandon League to keep the game tied.
“Timely hits, that’s what wins games for your and we were missing that today,” Bochy said.
San Francisco had not lost a road series since dropping two of three games to the Dodgers May 7-9. But, it leaves Safeco Field with two consecutive losses, which also has rejuvenated the Mariners who snapped a six-game losing streak Saturday.
Notes: Bochy said struggling starter Tim Lincecum will make his next start and insists the two-time Cy Young Award winner is close to regaining his form. . Mariners manager Eric Wedge is keeping Wilhelmsen as his closer. Wedge had said he hoped to move League back into the role, but Wilhelmsen’s success is forcing the manager to keep Wilhelmsen there.
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