Robin Ventura entrusts Zach Putnam with the task of holding a 2-0 lead in the ninth. But Putnam gave up three hits as the Mariners scored two to force extra innings. | Getty Images
MARINERS AT SOX
The facts: 1:10 p.m., CSN, 670-AM, 97.5-FM.
The pitchers: Taijuan Walker (1-0, 4.50 ERA) vs. Hector Noesi (2-5, 4.53).
Updated: July 6, 2014 2:32AM
The White Sox’ use of a closer-by-committee strategy backfired again in the ninth inning of a 3-2, 14-inning loss to the Seattle Mariners on Saturday.
The uncertainty of the committee system also looks to have wormed its way into the psyche of the team’s bullpen.
“As relievers, it’s nice to know when you’re going to throw,” said Zach Putnam, who blew the save as the Sox frittered away a stellar start by left-hander Jose Quintana, who blanked the Mariners over 7 2/3 innings.
“But again, when you’re called upon, your job is the same, no matter what the inning is, no matter what day, the situation, what have you. I didn’t get the job done today. Hopefully, I’ll be given another opportunity. If not, I hope the next guy gets the job done.”
Quintana outdueled Mariners ace Felix Hernandez, who allowed one hit — Adam Eaton’s single to lead off the game — through seven innings. But the Sox broke through against Hernandez for two runs in the eighth. Dyan Viciedo’s double scored Conor Gillaspie, and Tyler Flowers’ sacrifice fly drove in pinch runner Moises Sierra.
Eric Surkamp began the ninth, walking the only hitter he faced. In came Putnam, who allowed three hits and a run — the first was charged to Surkamp — and the game went into extra innings.
Overall, the bullpen has had some solid stretches. In the last seven games before Saturday, Sox relievers had posted a 2.95 ERA, and opponents had hit .250.
The final three outs have been the problem.
“We’re at the point where we’re using different people in that spot,” manager Robin Ventura said. “Every once in a while, those guys are going to give up runs. When it does, it’s going to look like a blown save, but we’re rotating around guys until somebody really emerges.”
The hitch is no one has emerged.
Matt Lindstrom had occupied the role, but he has been on the disabled list since May 20 with a torn tendon sheath in his left ankle. But even before then, he didn’t look completely comfortable in the ninth inning.
The biggest issue is that the relievers consistently have failed to throw strikes, trying to get hitters to chase balls out of the zone. It begs the question whether they have confidence in their stuff.
Up and down the league, plenty of teams struggle to find a closer.
“Anytime you give up runs and they tie it up, it shows you,” Ventura said. “We’re not the only ones. It happens throughout the league.”
In Putnam’s opinion, “The ninth shouldn’t be any different for a reliever than any other inning. You’ve got to do your job and get outs. Today, I made some pitches, a couple mistakes, but I got a few ground balls. There are days when those ground balls turn into outs.”