Anytime visions of the 1997 Mariners' baseball season come to mind these days, Seattle fans know something is wrong.
Those visions - blown leads, bullpen disasters, gas thrown on the fire, Slocumb, Timlin, Spoljaric - have come to the forefront in recent weeks. It's no coincidence that the Mariners are 5-8 since June 19th.
Tuesday night at Network Associates Stadium in Oakland, it felt like '97 all over again.
Seattle carried a one-run lead into the bottom of the 11th, when the bullpen gave up two runs to the Athletics - the decisive one coming on a Jermaine Dye sacrifice fly to right field. That capped the A's come-from-behind, 3-2 victory.
The Mariners (53-29) took the lead in the top of the inning when Carlos Guillen doubled leading off the inning and Ben Davis scorched a grounder through the infield two-batters later.
With Guillen at second and nobody out, Mark McLemore failed to get a sacrifice bunt down in three attempts. But Davis' hit made that a moot point, and had the M's thinking victory ahead 2-1.
A win would have meant the M's had taken the first two games of the four-game series and moved eight games ahead of Oakland. A loss, another bullpen disaster, and the M's would be just six games up on their division rivals from the Bay Area.
Seattle manager Bob Melvin decided to bring in Arthur Rhodes to start the inning, taking out the fresh arm of Rafael Soriano, who mowed the A's down in the 10th.
Rhodes faced just one batter, Erubial Durazo, who reached on a fortunate infield single in the six-hole and advanced to second on a throwing error by Guillen. Jeff Nelson came in to relieve the hard-throwin' lefty.
The first batter Nelson faced, pinch-hitter Terrance Long, singled to score Durazo. Oakland's Frank Menechino, with nobody out, sacrificed Long to second for the first out of the inning.
A wild pitch by Nelson, who was trying to get Dye to go after his looping slider for strike three, allowed Long to advance to third. Dye then sent a high fly ball fairly deep to right field, making for a play at the plate. The quick-footed Long easily beat Ichiro's throw home to end the game.
Nelson (3-2) took the loss, spoiling what was another impressive outing by oone of the youngest and most promising members of the Mariners' pitching staff, Gil Meche.
Oakland (47-35) closer Keith Foulke picked up the victory. He's now 5-1 on the year.
Gil Meche got the start, and allowed just five hits and one run in seven innings. He was equally matched, however, by Oakland starter Tim Hudson.
Hudson always gives the Mariners fits, and Tuesday was no different. He allowed just five hits and one run over eight innings, while striking out five. He, like Meche, didn't factor into the decision.
Oakland scored its lone run off of Meche in the second when Mark Ellis singled with two outs and the bases loaded, scoring Eric Chavez from third.
The M's only run off of Hudson came two innings later, when Bret Boone tripled to score Ichiro Suzuki, who reached on a double two batters earlier.
At 1-1, that's where it stayed until the dramatic 11th inning, when visions of 1997 crept back into the mind of Mariners fans everywhere.
Durazo and former Washington State Cougar Scott Hatteburg had two hits apiece to lead Oakland.
Seattle was paced by two-hit days from Ichiro, Guillen and Davis.