Leonys Martin’s 10th-inning home run lifted the Mariners in a dramatic 7-6 win at Oakland.
OAKLAND, Calif. — Leonys Martin knew it was gone the moment it left his bat and so did the handful of fans that made their way to the Oakland Coliseum on a cool Tuesday evening.
The sound of Josh Smith’s fastball hitting the barrel of Martin’s maple bat produced such an unmistakable crack followed by a lingering echo in the cavernous and decaying stadium that the first reaction for fans was a gasp.
“Oh, it was loud,” said fellow outfielder Ben Gamel. “It was really loud.”
Mariners @ Oakland, 12:35 p.m., ROOT Sports
The towering blast, a reminder of Martin’s swing speed and power, carried deep into the right field stands.
For the first time in a game they seemed destined to lose from the first inning on, the Mariners had a lead. And they didn’t let it go. Edwin Diaz worked around a one-out single and a walk, retiring the final two batters to secure a 7-6 come-from-behind win over the A’s. It was his 24th save on the season.
With the win, the Mariners improved to 58-56 on the season and with the Royals and Rays both losing, they moved into a tie with those two teams for the second American League wild-card spot.
It was an improbable comeback for a team that trailed by deficits of 5-1 and 6-2 in the game. The Mariners bullpen was big, pitching five shutout innings to allow the offense to rally, highlighted by Casey Lawrence two spotless innings of middle relief.
“It was a good team win,” Martin said. “Everybody contributed.”
But Martin had the highlight of the night. After watching what he had produced for a few seconds in the batter’s box, he headed for first base and before he touched the bag, he looked back and screamed toward his teammates in the dugout that he had been right.
“I talked to Nellie (Cruz) before the at-bat and I said, ‘I’m going to get this guy,'” Martin said. “I put a good swing on it. I was seeing the ball really good tonight. I didn’t try to hit a homer. I was just trying to put a good swing on it.”
Diaz, who had been warming in the ninth, had time for five warmup pitches in the bullpen before taking the mound in the 10th. He gave up the one-out single to Matt Olson and walked the ultra dangerous Khris Davis, who had hit his 30th homer of the season earlier in the game.
“If I make a mistake to him, the game is over,” he said.
With runners on first and second and a quick visit from pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre Jr., Diaz won nine-pitch battle with Chad Pinder, who fouled off four straight fastballs before waving at the fifth. Diaz reacted like he thought it was the third out. But it was just excitement over the battle won.
“It was tough with Pinder,” he said. “It was a tough AB. I know the inning wasn’t over. I was just celebrating my out and then continued.”
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Diaz got Matt Chapman to fly out to Martin to end the game.
“It wasn’t easy that’s for sure,” manager Scott Servais. “We were down early, but we kept chipping away. I couldn’t be happier for Leonys Martin. The last time we were in Oakland, we had to designate him for assignment. I’m happy for him.”
The now monthlong struggles of Ariel Miranda to keep runs off the scoreboard and the ball in the park continued. It’s a growing problem for the young left-hander and the Mariners, who desperately need him to pitch at the level he showed earlier in the season. With Felix Hernandez on the disabled list, Miranda has the potential to be the Mariners’ next best pitcher in the rotation, but he’s still a long ways behind James Paxton. But right now, he’s struggling like the myriad No. 5 level starters that Seattle has sent to the mound this season.
Miranda pitched five innings, giving up six runs on five hits with two walks and six strikeouts.
Over his last 10 starts, Miranda is 1-3 with a 6.22 ERA having allowed 38 runs on 54 hits, including 18 homers.
Four of those runs allowed vs. the A’s came on two swings of the bat. In the first inning, following a leadoff double to Rajai Davis and a walk to Marcus Semien, Miranda made a regrettable pitch to Khris Davis with one out, leaving a 2-1 fastball over the middle of the plate. And while Davis does strike out at a mind-numbing rate — once in every four plate appearances — he isn’t going to miss a gift like that pitch. Davis hit a tailing fly ball to right field that seemed destined to float foul. Instead it carried over the wall for a three-run homer.
It was the 28th homer that Miranda has allowed this season — the most in all of baseball.
Davis nearly got Miranda again in the third inning with the A’s leading 3-1, smoking an RBI triple off the wall in dead center. He later scored on a fly ball to make it 5-1.
Miranda’s last run allowed came via the homer, of course. Mark Canha crushed a solo homer to center to make it 6-2 in the fifth.
Seattle chipped away at the lead, picking up two runs in the sixth on Ben Gamel’s RBI double to right. They added another in the seventh on a run-scoring bloop single from Nelson Cruz.
The Mariners tied the game in eighth with some help from Oakland. Gamel reached and advanced to second on third baseman Matt Chapman’s throwing error to first base. He moved to second on a ground ball and scored on pinch-hitter Danny Valencia’s shallow fly to center.
The ball was nowhere deep enough for most runners to tag. But third base coach Manny Acta was aggressive and took advantage of Davis’ weak throwing arm and feet not being set when he caught it. Gamel sprinted for home and made a nifty slide to avoid a late tag to make it 6-6.
“You got to go for it,” Servais said. “We’ve got to be aggressive. And when you get up there and have a chance to make a play, go for it. If they respond and make a play and then throw you out, so be it. But we are going to stay aggressive. It’s what we have to do.”
Said Gamel: “I got back and saw I had time and I just went. I didn’t really hear anything. I knew I had a shot to get in there. It was a tough throw because he didn’t get his feet set and he was running still. I liked my chances. I was just reading what the catcher was doing.”