What a wild game.
Make that, what a wild series.
“No words – just no words,” Seattle Mariners first baseman Ryon Healy said.
More home runs. That was par for the course for this series – as were acrobatic tags, Mitch Haniger outfield assists and Mike Trout on base all the time.
But Wednesday's game added multi-run rallies, a lot of pitchers, injuries, hectic defensive miscues, high-leverage situations, and a tie game into the ninth inning.
But this series wasn’t ending by anything other than a home run.
So fitting that it came from Haniger.
With one out in the bottom of the ninth, he lasered a 1-0 splitter over the left field wall for his third home run of the series and second career walk-off homer, lifting the Mariners to an 8-6 come-from-behind victory over the Los Angeles Angels.
Never a doubt?
“When they went up two runs, me and Z (Mike Zunino) were sitting in the little video room and I was like, ‘We’re going to win this game,’” Haniger said. “And he’s like, ‘I know we are.’ That’s just it – we’re never out of a game. So just keep bringing it.”
Mitch Haniger now has 2 walk-off HR this month for the @Mariners— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) June 14, 2018
Notable players who didn't have 2 walk-off HR in their Mariners careers include...
Ken Griffey Jr. (1)
Edgar Martinez (1)
Jay Buhner (1)
Ichiro Suzuki (1)
Alex Rodriguez (0) pic.twitter.com/vMC14vh3nX
That was the 17th combined home run between these two teams of the series – the most ever for a three-game series at Safeco Field.
Besides Haniger, Healy hit another homer (his fourth of the series) as did Nelson Cruz (three homers this series).
But Haniger’s sent about all of the 28,236 at Safeco Field into uproar, coming a half-inning after he doubled up Jabari Blash at first base by sprinting down the right-field line, catching and spinning and firing to first base.
He also leads the major leagues in outfield assists, that being his eighth.
“We need to send him to D.C.,” Healy said.
As in, for the All-Star game next month. But at this point maybe a spot in the oval office wouldn’t be such a bad idea, either.
“There’s no reason this man doesn’t deserve to go to D.C. the way this guy contributes day in and day out. Offensively, defensively, his persona, his aura – everything about him. It’s so special.”
And that completed a comeback, despite the Mariners looking sluggish at times in trailing 6-4 after the top of the seventh inning.
“Our team has absolutely no quit,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said.
“The grit to hang in there and fight through it, there was not one person in our dugout who thought for a second we were going to lose that ball game today. And that’s a really good feeling.”
The Mariners (44-24) improved to 20 games over .500 with the win before the Boston Red Sox come to town for a four-game series. They haven't been 20 games over .500 since August of 2007.
And they’re 10-2 since the start of June, the month that’s supposed to test their ability to stay in the playoff hunt. They moved 7.5 games ahead of the Angels in the division and maintained their lead over the Astros. Now they get 10 games to play the Red Sox and New York Yankees to really prove that.
“I said it when the homestand started that we were really looking forward to playing this stretch of games,” Servais said. “Which a lot of people and our fans said, ‘Ah, we’ll just wait and see. We’ll wait and see.’ Our team is really good. And if you don’t enjoy and connect with our club right there you just don’t like baseball.
"This is what we’ve talked about bringing to the Pacific Northwest. We have a chance to do something special here this summer. Our guys feel it and the people in the ball park certainly feel it as well.”
The Mariners led 4-1 after the fourth inning.
But comebacks – those are supposed to be the Mariners’ thing. So is clean defense and timely hitting.
The Angels gave the Mariners a taste of their own medicine.
This was a Mariners win, but it wasn’t their cleanest or sharpest. The Angels tied the game in the sixth inning after Haniger, who started the game in center field, avoided collision with Ben Gamel, only for the ball to land between then, ensuring Chris Young of a triple before he scored on a sacrifice fly.
And it was 6-4, Angels, when Young and Nolan Fontana homered in the seventh off of Chasen Bradford – the sinkerball pitcher who had allowed just two homers in his previous 25 1/3 innings (1.75 ERA) this season.
The Mariners had the bases loaded in the sixth but didn’t score a run. Runners at second and third with one out in the second and didn’t score and then a play at the plate trying to tie it in the seventh.
Jean Segura cut the lead to 6-5 with his double to score Dee Gordon from first base, with Segura reaching third on the play – still no outs and 90 feet from tying the game.
But Nelson Cruz soared a high fly ball into shallow left field. Segura only showed that he’d go, he wasn’t actually going to. But the Angels’ Justin Upton’s throw to the plate soared well to the left. So Segura was off.
Third baseman David Fletcher got the underhand flip from catcher Martin Maldanado and had to stop and dive back to get Segura at the plate, one day after Segura’s behind-the-back tag at second base.
The Mariners challenged but the call stood because there wasn’t enough to overturn it. Instead of game tied, the inning ended.
Another opportunity lost.
Especially with the Angels scrambling. Their starter, Garrett Richards, left with a left hamstring injury after two innings, meaning the Angels had to quickly turn to their bullpen to stave off the series sweep.
Mariners starter Marco Gonzales lasted a few innings longer, but not much.
He did escape a fifth-inning jam with runners at the corners and one out thanks to back-to-back strikeouts. Albert Pujols advanced Mike Trout to third base and reached first on Andrew Romine’s fielding error on a hard ground ball.
Romine was playing there for Kyle Seager, who was scratched just before the first pitch for what the Mariners announced as a personal issue. Servais said afterward he is hopeful Seager will be available for Thursday’s series opener against the Red Sox. He said he learned an hour before the first pitch that Seager wouldn’t be able to play.
So one of his thoughts: Get Ryon Healy a third base glove.
Healy played third base some of the past two seasons with the Oakland Athletics, but Healy said his current gloves had just been opened from their packages and weren’t worked in. So that kiboshed that idea.
Gonzales got about a dozen fist bumps walking into the dugout after escaping the fifth inning, his pitch count up to 102 pitches after allowing three runs and seven hits with seven strikeouts.
And even that was far more than his counterpart. Angels starter Richards exited after two innings after he carved the Mariners for eight strikeouts in 6 2/3 shutout innings in his last appearance in Seattle on May 4.
Just look at how things have changed since then.
The Angels took two of three games against the Mariners that series, and vaulted to first place in the American League West standings because of it.
Now? They’re 7.5 games back of the Mariners with Seattle taking this three-game sweep. The Mariners had Robinson Cano then and don’t now, but the Angels are now without Richards, and third baseman Zack Cozart also exited in the third inning. They entered Safeco Field without two-way star Shohei Ohtani (UCL sprain) and shortstop Andrelton Simmons (ankle) among others.
Remind you of a team? That was much like the injury-riddled 2017 Mariners.
“Our lineup can get hot any night,” Healy said. “We were just joking that one guy gets going and it carries the entire squad. We watched Nelson Cruz carry this squad, we’ve watched Mitch Haniger carry this squad, we’ve watched numerous guys carry us. It’s special.”
Just this series, Healy hit four home runs, Haniger three and Cruz three, offsetting the four from Mike Trout, who didn’t homer on Wednesday but still went 2-for-3 with a double, RBI and was intentionally walked twice.
Trout this season against the Mariners is batting .640 (16-for-25) with five home runs. He drove in half of the Angels’ 12 runs this series.
That’s the difference – the Angels were Trout-led. The Mariners had a whole lineup going.
“When we’re pitching like we are and we know they’re not going to score runs and we have such a powerful lineup – any given night it’s someone else,” Haniger said. “We just have to stay within ourselves and get it done.”
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