ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Seattle Mariners closer Danny Farquhar was a lone figure, waiting patiently by his locker for the media throng he knew was coming.
His teammates were in a private back kitchen area of the visitor’s clubhouse, grabbing a postgame meal after a 5-4 walkoff loss to the Tampa Bay Rays. Farquhar could have joined them and made the questions wait, but he seemed eager to tackle the aftermath of Wednesday night’s ninth-inning meltdown.
After all, the good closers learn to shrug off the good and the bad and this first blown save in six tries in his new role would definitely provide a test.
“The good thing is, I failed a ton in the minors,” he said. “I blew a lot of saves down there, so, tomorrow’s a new day. I’m a guy who’s got a pretty short memory. I’ll just try to forget about it and move on.”
But blowing a save in the minors doesn’t quite match up to doing it in the majors. The big league stage is bigger — even if the 14,910 fans at Tropicana Field didn’t quite represent a packed house — and so are the stakes.
Tom Wilhelmsen had a tough time dealing with the aftermath of blown saves once too often, and that’s why Farquhar was out there in the first place. It didn’t help that three walks in a scoreless eighth inning tossed by Yoervis Medina helped bring the top of the Rays’ order around once again.
Those hitters had seen Farquhar notch his fifth save in five tries the previous night. And when Farquhar was a little off this time, they didn’t miss.
Ben Zobrist drilled a ball off the top of the right-field wall and was awarded a triple upon video review. Matt Joyce followed with a single up the middle that tied the game.
Evan Longoria then ripped a ball down the left-field line for a double that put runners at second and third. Wil Myers was walked intentionally, and Jason Bourgeois then hammered a pitch over the head of a drawn-in Endy Chavez in right field to end it.
Five batters, all reaching base. By the time it was over, Farquhar had barely had time to catch his breath.
But he said he’d had enough time to collect himself.
“The whole replay (thing) took a lot of time,” he said. “I’m usually a pretty quick worker. I don’t usually like time to think or time to worry about things. So, it didn’t bother me how fast it happened.”
Farquhar said he wasn’t trying to do anything different with hitters seeing him a second night in a row. He tried to mix his three pitches in steadily to keep the hitters off-balance, but wasn’t as sharp as he’d have liked.
“I just think it was bad execution of a lot of pitches,” he said. “Pitches up in the zone, in the middle of the plate. Major league hitters take advantage of that situation.”
And the Rays did on a night they trailed the Mariners from the first inning on. Facing Rays ace David Price for the first time, they got a quick run when Kendrys Morales singled to bring home Kyle Seager.
After the Rays tied it in the fourth off Seattle starter Aaron Harang, the Mariners erupted for three runs off Price in the fifth to go up 4-1. For the second night in a row, Brad Miller clubbed a big hit with a triple to the gap in left-center that scored a pair of runs.
Fellow Orlando-area native Nick Franklin, who, like Miller, had plenty of family and friends in the stands, followed by lining a double to the left-field corner to bring another run home.
“More than anything, with two outs, I was just looking for a decent pitch to hit,” Franklin said. “Then, you just drop your shoulders and kind of go after it. It was nice with my family being here, to get a hit. At the same time, it didn’t work out in the end.”
It looked like it might, until Harang’s forearm began tightening around the fifth or sixth inning. The Rays got four straight hits off him in the sixth, including a two-run homer by Myers that cut Seattle’s lead to 4-3.
Charlie Furbush replaced Harang with two on and none out and did a great job retiring the side, and the first two batters of the seventh. Medina carried things through four more outs to the ninth, despite a rocky eighth, but Farquhar simply couldn’t get it done in the ninth.
“It’s hard to get those last three outs sometimes, no matter who you’re running out there,” Mariners interim manager Robby Thompson said. “Those last three outs are tough. We kind of had that lineup flip back up to the top of the order … all that stuff comes into play.”
Thompson had said before the game the team would ride Farquhar as closer and see where it takes them. Now, they’ll watch to see which direction this fork in the road heads.
“We’ll see how Danny bounces back,” he said. “He’s been really good in that situation. But these things happen.”