There has been talk all season of a lack of clutch performances by some Mariners when they've most needed to drive in runs. And so, at the...
There has been talk all season of a lack of clutch performances by some Mariners when they’ve most needed to drive in runs.
And so, at the key moments of this 4-3 win in 13 innings on Sunday over the Texas Rangers, the Mariners were pleased to have a more veteran presence at the plate to deliver some of the season’s biggest hits. With dugout tension ratcheted to the point of near-eruption, the Mariners saw veterans Kendrys Morales, Raul Ibanez and Jason Bay come through with a season possibly on the line.
None of the hits was bigger than the walkoff single by Bay in the 13th, enabling the Mariners to halt this losing streak at eight and perhaps begin turning this season around.
“It feels great, not just for me but I’m sure for everybody,” Bay said. “It was a big sigh of relief for a lot of people.”
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The broken bat, two-out single to left off Ross Wolf lifted the Safeco Field crowd of 23,154 from the seats and sent the Mariners streaming from their dugout in celebration. Not only did they snap the streak and salvage a lone win this series, they also set themselves up better for the week ahead.
The Mariners face the San Diego Padres four times and then play three against Minnesota, a pair of losing clubs.
Over the past 10 days, the Mariners (21-29) had seen a once-promising May turn disastrous with series against three first-place clubs as well as a red-hot Angels squad that has won eight in a row.
The pressure mounted daily as the losses piled up and potential changes loomed. It continued Sunday as Hisashi Iwakuma served up a leadoff home run to Jurickson Profar and was down 2-0 before the game was two innings old.
But Iwakuma shut it down from there and worked through eight innings with eight strikeouts, buying time for Morales to tie it in the sixth with a two-run homer off starter Nick Tepesch.
Then, after the Rangers went ahead in the top of the 11th, Ibanez tied it again with a solo homer to right, leading to the first blown save of the season for Rangers closer Joe Nathan. Bay nearly won it moments later on a drive to left-center, caught at the wall by a leaping David Murphy.
But Bay came through the next time up on the first pitch he saw.
“That was the first time they’d thrown me a first-pitch fastball and I was looking for a breaking ball,” Bay said. “The fastball kind of ran back in and it’s funny how the game works out sometimes. You fly out at 375 feet and nothing, and then you break your bat and it wins the game.”
Ibanez became a playoff hero with late home runs for the New York Yankees last season. Going up to face Nathan in the 11th, he tried to block out the enormity of the situation.
“I think you just take the mindset of getting a good pitch to hit,” Ibanez said. “You try not to do too much with it and barrel it up. Fortunately, I was able to get that pitch and get it airborne to right field and get it out.”
Ibanez said it was critical that the Mariners didn’t let the pressure of the streak overwhelm them as the extra innings continued.
“That’s something that, when you’re in the game, you know what’s been going on, but you can’t think that way,” Ibanez said. “You just think about winning this game one pitch at a time and trying not to overdo anything. If you start thinking about the circumstances of the situation and what’s been going on, then you might try too hard. That usually doesn’t work out in your favor.”
Wedge didn’t have left-handers Charlie Furbush or Lucas Luetge available in the top of the 13th with runners at the corners, one out and the top of the order up.
But right-hander Yoervis Medina struck out switch-hitter Profar, then got left-handed hitter Murphy to ground out and eventually qualify for his first major-league win. Bay then became the latest veteran hitter to deliver big.
“The veterans really came through for us offensively,” Wedge said. “I mean, Bay hits that one ball and it’s probably out of here. It would have been close, at least, but then, you feel good with him up there in that (13th inning) situation and he came through for us.”
Geoff Baker: 206-464-8286 or firstname.lastname@example.org.