Angel Manager Buck Rodgers picked at his postgame buffet, wondering how and why it could have all gone wrong late Saturday night.
Joe Grahe sat alone in the trainer’s room, an enormous ice pack wrapped around his right arm.
Chili Davis sat at a table, feeling the ache of six stitches needed to close a wound below his left kneecap.
The Angels had just blown a seven-run lead in a 10-7 loss to the Seattle Mariners before 33,579 in the Kingdome. Even Tim Salmon couldn’t save them from themselves.
In the end, poor relief pitching doomed the Angels. Grahe simply couldn’t get the third out in the pivotal eighth inning, giving up a game-tying single by Jay Buhner and a three-run homer by Jerry Willard.
It was Willard’s first hit this season, a blast into the fifth row in the right-center-field stands. It was his third at-bat this season.
“Two outs and we can’t get the last out,” Rodgers said after the Mariners completed the biggest nine-inning comeback in club history.
Gary DiSarcina got to Buhner’s grounder into the hole between shortstop and third base, but the ball kicked off his glove and into no-man’s land. Rich Amaral raced home from second and the score was tied, 7-7.
Seattle Manager Lou Piniella sent Willard to bat for Mike Blowers. Blowers had pinch-hit in the seventh for Reggie Jefferson, whose two-run homer in the third brought the Mariners to within 7-4.
Willard slammed a 2-and-2 changeup from Grahe into the seats, wrecking the Angels’ night.
“I thought it was down,” said Grahe (0-3). “Maybe he was sitting on it.”
Blame for this loss did not rest solely on Grahe’s shoulders. But he wasn’t shirking his role in Saturday’s defeat.
“There’s no reason to hit the panic button,” Grahe said.
“Maybe I’ll re-evaluate a few things, but there’s nothing wrong with my stuff. It’s just gut-check time.
“I’m just going to have to be above letting it get to me.”
Grahe’s shaky outing was one of many problems facing the Angels after Saturday’s game.
Most notable were the first-inning injury to Davis and another disappointing start from Mark Leiter.
Davis was spiked by catcher Dan Wilson during a home-plate collision during the Angels’ five-run first inning.
“The catcher was trying to block the plate and he slid right into his spikes,” Rodgers said. “It’s not a good spot right there. That’s where the knee bends.”
Asked if things would have been different had Davis not been injured, Rodgers shrugged.
“I don’t know; he’s the best hitter we have and he’s out of the lineup after the first inning,” he said.
As for Leiter, he could be headed to the bullpen after lasting only 2 2/3 innings and giving up four runs and six hits.
“I’m getting concerned about some people,” Rodgers said. “Leiter’s one of them. We’ll see how things go. We could be talking about some things when we get home.”
One option is putting Leiter in the bullpen and recalling John Farrell from triple-A Vancouver.
The Angels’ late-inning troubles overshadowed another home run by Salmon, who extended his hitting streak against Seattle to eight games, dating to last season.
With the Angels leading, 5-0, in the second inning, Salmon slammed a 2-and-1 pitch from starter Greg Hibbard over the right-center-field fence for a two-run homer.
It was Salmon’s 14th hit in his last 16 at-bats, his fourth homer and 12th RBI in the last four games.
But the Mariners kept crawling back, finally landing a haymaker on Grahe in the eighth.
“Obviously, a win (today) will help team-wise,” said Grahe, who has given up six earned runs in his last two innings. “But I can’t feel good about myself after this trip, though.”