Run ends longest scoreless game in Mariners history
Barely a drop of sweat could be found on Ken Griffey Jr. once he’d reached the finish line of this marathon night.
He didn’t have the bruises or sore knees of Rob Johnson, the guy he pinch-hit for Wednesday night after the latter had caught all 14 innings of what had been the longest scoreless game in Mariners history. Griffey didn’t have to ice his arm the way Felix Hernandez, Chris Jakubauskas and other mound architects of this 1-0 win over the Chicago White Sox had to when it was finally over.
About the only real work for Griffey, after he’d laced a walkoff single to the right-field corner, was evading the thunderous backslaps of teammates who’d chased him to the outfield grass in celebration.
“I’m going to look at the tape and there’s going to be a massacre tomorrow,” Griffey joked of future payback.
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But the 39-year-old, who’d received a rousing ovation from 24,427 fans at Safeco Field when he strode to the plate with two on and two out, wasn’t kidding around when he downplayed his role in the final result.
“These guys, from 7 o’clock until 10:50 or whatever it was, they made some great plays defensively,” Griffey said after the three-hour, 52-minute affair. “It was just an unbelievable game. I was just fortunate that I got up there and got the hit that sent everyone home happy.”
The crowd erupted and the Mariners’ dugout emptied as Griffey’s hit sent Adrian Beltre scampering home from second. Beltre had opened the inning with his third hit, off White Sox reliever Tony Pena, and made a winner of Jakubauskas.
But things might never have gotten to Griffey if not for the glovework of both teams. What began as a classic pitching duel between Hernandez and White Sox counterpart Mark Buehrle later morphed into a battle of bullpens and finally, a showcase of how defense is meant to be played.
Johnson played a key role in a run-saving throw from right field by Ichiro in the fifth inning, blocking the plate and holding onto the ball as tagging runner Jayson Nix tried to score from third. Five innings later, Johnson saved the day with his own arm, picking off lead runner Scott Podsednik at third base after Chicago put runners at the corners with one out.
Later, Johnson nearly won it with his bat in the 12th, only to be robbed by a saving catch of his line drive and a double play turned by Sox first baseman Mark Kotsay.
Jack Hannahan came through for the Mariners as well, having replaced Jack Wilson after the shortstop pulled a hamstring. Hannahan went to his knees for a Carlos Quentin grounder in the 13th before throwing him out by a step at first.
“Hannahan made a great play up the middle and saved me,” Jakubauskas said. “I was looking for the ball in center field when he popped up and threw it. All around, it was a great job by everybody.”
Hernandez was great when he had to be throughout his 105-pitch effort, having been hit by leg cramps from the first inning on.
“Every pitch I threw, I would get the cramp,” Hernandez said. “I just pitched though it. I pitched through it and got the seven innings.”
Hernandez was never better than in the seventh. With runners at the corners and nobody out, he struck out Podsednik — after the hitter had ripped a ball just foul past the first-base bag — then got Gordon Beckham to hit a double-play grounder.
“It’s probably the best game I’ve ever been associated with as far as pitching from both sides,” Mariners manager Don Wakamatsu said.
And he was right, as Buehrle kept the Mariners off the board through his eight frames. Wakamatsu was prepared to allow Jakubauskas to work a third inning, after he and relievers Sean White, Mark Lowe and Shawn Kelley carried things to the 14th.
But Griffey made sure he didn’t have to. And the team made sure he wasn’t about to forget his contribution.
“He’s the big brother around here,” Mike Sweeney said of his fellow designated hitter. “He’ll wrestle Ichiro, pin him down. Throw Rob Johnson in a locker. But as you could tell, the guys were excited to put a beat-down on Junior. It was well-deserved and he’s definitely a big part of the team.”
Geoff Baker: 206-464-8286 or firstname.lastname@example.org