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More tough lessons for rookie closer Smith

MINNEAPOLIS - Strong pitching by starter Mike Montgomery and setup men Tom Wilhelmsen and Fernando Rodney had the Mariners poised for victory on Saturday, but things haven't gone that smoothly for Seattle much of the time this season.

And after a wild ninth from rookie closer Carson Smith, the Mariners were slapped with another walk-off loss, this one to the Twins, 3-2. It was the Mariners' seventh walk-off setback of the season, and Smith has now taken the loss in his last three outings.

Seattle had 12 blown saves in the entire 2014 season, but now has 14 in the first 105 games of 2015 while struggling to a 47-58 record.

Handed a 2-1 lead, Smith gave up a first-pitch leadoff double to Miguel Sano. The 26-year-old struck out Trevor Plouffe, but then uncorked a wild pitch up by Torii Hunter's head that allowed pinch-runner Shane Robinson to take third.

Video: [email protected]: Suzuki delivers a walk-off win in the 9th

Smith appeared close to getting out of the jam when he got Hunter on a comebacker to the mound. But after intentionally walking left-handed swinging Eddie Rosario, Smith unleased another wild pitch to Kurt Suzuki that allowed the tying run to score, then surrendered Suzuki's winning single to left after Rosario stole third unimpeded on a slow windup.

"I think more than anything, you saw tonight, it was just command," manager Lloyd McClendon said. "You saw two or three wild pitches and cranked off a 1.6 [second time to the plate] with a man on second that can run. The inexperience showed up tonight. The only way you're going to learn is from these mistakes, and he'll be better as a result of them."

Though Rodney struck out the side in the eighth for his third straight perfect outing, McClendon said he's not going to yo-yo back to his former closer now that Smith is running into trouble in that role.

"Carson Smith will be out there in the ninth tomorrow if we've got a lead," McClendon said.

Smith's ERA has jumped from 1.77 to 2.81 in his last three outings -- with five runs, four hits, five walks and two strikeouts while getting just three outs. McClendon gave him four days' rest before bringing him back Saturday, but the time off didn't change the results.

"I'm fine," Smith said. "I'm just going to take it day to day and get better tomorrow. I've got to learn from it. Not let it haunt me. I'm going to try to put that one past me and get ready to go tomorrow."

What's the lesson?

"You've got to know you're capable of getting guys out," he said. "You've got to take the good from the outing. I struck a guy out with a guy on third. I kept my cool. A pitch got away from me and, after that, I've got to realize the game is still on the line. I've still got a job to do. That's what I've got to learn."

Greg Johns is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB, read his Mariners Musings blog, and listen to his podcast.
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