SEATTLE — Veteran right-hander Anthony Bass has been delegated as the Mariners’ best option to serve as interim closer through sheer attrition in a bullpen that has been undone by injuries and trades.
It was once Hunter Strickland and then Roenis Elias and for a while Austin Adams. Two are gone; one is injured. A glance at the rest of the names on the lineup card doesn’t yield a better option.
Bass was the logical call for manager Scott Servais in the ninth inning of a tie game versus the Tampa Bay Rays on Friday night.
But it yielded suboptimal results. Bass struggled not only to get outs but throwing strikes. He allowed three runs on just one hit and the Mariners were done.
Former Mariner reliever Emilio Pagan came on in the bottom of ninth and closed out a 5-3 victory for Tampa, notching his 10th save of the season.
Bass entered a 2-2 game in the top of the ninth. He gave up a leadoff single to Eric Sogard and walked Kevin Kiermaier. The Rays had Michael Brosseau lay down a sacrifice bunt to move the runners up a base. The Mariners countered by intentionally walking Willy Adames to load the bases and set up force plays at every base.
Bass didn’t let his defense make a play on the go-ahead run. He walked former Mariner Ji-Man Choi, who came into the game hitless in his last 14 at-bats.
The inning fell apart from There. J.P. Crawford mishandled Tommy Pham’s soft groundball for a run-scoring error, and a fielder’s choice scored another run. Tampa had three runs on one single.
That three-run outburst became more galling when Ryan Court hit a solo homer in the bottom of the ninth to trim the lead to two. Even if Bass had only allowed the one run, there might have been hope. But three runs was just too much.
It was the Rays’ first win at T-Mobile Park in their last 10 tries.
The Mariners got a solid outing out of lefty Marco Gonzales that ended a little prematurely. After some early issues, he still worked 6.1 innings, allowing two runs on seven hits with two walks and a season-high nine strikeouts.
Gonzales’ outing ended after Adames led off the seventh inning with a one-hopper that struck Gonzales in the back of his leg. He scrambled to collect the ball and throw Adames out at first base.
Gonzales was in obvious pain and limping a little, which brought trainer Rob Nodine and Servais out of the dugout. With right-hander Cory Gearrin already warming in the bullpen and Gonzales’ pitch count at 98, the Mariners decided to make a change. An irritated Gonzales stalked off the mound.
The Rays jumped out to 2-0 lead in the first three innings. They picked up a run in the second inning after Matt Duffy smoked a ball off the wall in left-center and later scored on a failed attempt at an inning-ending double play.
Tampa picked up another run in the third inning on a fielder’s choice. Gonzales allowed back-to-back singles to start the frame. Pham later scored on Jesus Aguilar’s slow bouncer to third base that left Kyle Seager with no play at the plate.
The Mariners cut the lead in half in the bottom of the inning. Mallex Smith worked a leadoff walk off starter Jalen Beeks and scored on Domingo Santana’s single to left field.
Seattle tied the game an inning later on Court’s two-out RBI single to right that broke an 0-for-9 stretch. It ended Beeks’ outing. He was credited with 3.2 innings pitched, two runs (one earned) allowed on five hits with two walks and four strikeouts.