KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Brad Miller will get the headlines, and rightfully so. After all, it was his solo home run off Royals closer Greg Holland that broke a tie in the ninth inning and propelled the Mariners to a 7-5 victory Friday.
“What a swing by Miller,” first baseman Logan Morrison said. “Oh, my goodness. They don’t get much bigger than that.”
But it was the toil of reliever Charlie Furbush a half-inning earlier that made Miller’s highlight possible. When Furbush jogged in from the bullpen in the bottom of the eighth, the Royals had loaded the bases against Danny Farquhar with one out.
Furbush answered the call by getting Mike Moustakas to pop out to second and Alcides Escobar to strike out.
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That allowed Miller to hit the go-ahead homer off Holland, one of the game’s best closers. And it allowed the Mariners to make amends for letting a five-run lead slip away against the Royals.
“That was honestly one of the best baseball games we’ve all been a part of,” Miller said.
Miller’s homer was only the second given up by Holland this season and his first since May 5. It also was the first run he’s allowed since May 5.
Morrison, a Kansas City native who made a run-preventing catch in the sixth inning, added another run with a single off Holland in the ninth. Mariners closer Fernando Rodney put the tying run on before shutting the door in the bottom of the ninth.
It didn’t look like it would get to that point, though.
Robinson Cano drove in Endy Chavez with a single in the first inning, and Mike Zunino hit a solo homer in the fourth for Seattle. Cano added another RBI on a double in the fifth inning. Morrison also hit a two-run home run in the fifth that put the Mariners on top 5-0.
It was immediately after that surge that Mariners starter Hisashi Iwakuma revealed that he is, indeed, human. He had looked nearly unhittable through four innings.
He struck out the side in the first inning. He didn’t allow a runner to reach second through four innings. He was efficient with his pitches.
But Iwakuma cracked in the fifth inning and snapped his 20-inning scoreless streak against the Royals. He struck out Alex Gordon to start the inning before the barrage followed: a solo home run to Salvador Perez, a double to Lorenzo Cain and a two-run home run to Moustakas.
Iwakuma said that while his stiff neck still nags him, it didn’t have an effect on the way he pitched.
“I kind of lost my rhythm as the game went on, and they were very aggressive,” Iwakuma said. “They got to certain pitches and kind of just took advantage.”
After Iwakuma gave up back-to-back singles to start the sixth inning, reliever Dominic Leone came in and allowed back-to-back runs to score, both charged to Iwakuma. That tied the game at 5-5.
Iwakuma’s final line betrayed how well he pitched at the start: five innings, five runs, nine hits and two home runs. He also struck out five.
“His stuff was good,” Managers manager Lloyd McClendon said. “I just thought he lost his location a little bit.”
The Royals had a golden opportunity in the eighth inning.
Billy Butler singled off Farquhar, and Alex Gordon followed with a single. Perez then advanced Butler to third and Gordon to second with a fly ball.
McClendon countered by intentionally walking Cain to load the bases and by bringing in Furbush to protect the tie.
“That was such a good win all around, from everybody that was in it,” Furbush said.
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