BOSTON — It might be a little premature to break out the old “Two outs, so what?” mantra for this Mariners team. But for one night it sure seemed fitting.
They were one out away from defeat on Friday night in a game they should have lost. For eight innings, Seattle was inept offensively and poised to drop its fourth game of the trip to a team that had waved the white flag long ago. Yet, for all the Boston Red Sox’s problems and failures, the reigning world champions were still 44-0 when taking a lead into the ninth inning.
Make that 44-1.
Down 3-0 and facing Red Sox all-star closer Koji Uehara, the Mariners scored five runs in the top of the ninth inning to rally for an improbable 5-3 win, stunning the crowd of 36,433 at Fenway Park.
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It was just the third time this season Seattle (69-58) has won a game when it was trailing after eight innings. The last time the Mariners overcame a three-run deficit in the ninth inning was on May 30, 2009, against the Angels.
“Baseball is a funny game,” said manager Lloyd McClendon. “When you think you’ve got it figured out, you tell me, because I don’t know. The first three hours of that game, we didn’t look very good. Our at-bats weren’t very good. All of a sudden with two outs, we turned it on. I can’t figure it out.”
With two outs and Logan Morrison on first, Endy Chavez drew his third walk of the game — something he’d never done in his career. It was a 10-pitch affair in which Chavez had fallen behind 1-2.
“I thought it was just a tremendous at-bat,” McClendon said. “He really battled and fouled off some great pitches.”
Said Chavez: “I was just fighting with two strikes and trying to be selective.”
Pinch-hitter Chris Denorfia flared a single into right field to load the bases and bring Austin Jackson to the plate.
Jackson had already stranded five runners in the game, including a pop-up to second with the bases loaded to end the fifth. But this time he came through, doubling off the Green Monster in left to score two runs.
Dustin Ackley followed with a bloop double to left field that landed between shortstop Brock Holt and left fielder Yoenis Cespedes, scoring the tying and go-ahead runs.
“I did not know that was down,” Ackley said. “I knew I got it up in the air. I saw Holt running for it and thought he might have a chance at it.”
But it landed just out of a diving Holt’s reach.
The Mariners weren’t done. Robinson Cano added an RBI single that scored Ackley, who was running on the pitch, all the way from first, thanks to a gutty “send” by third-base coach Rich Donnelly and a pretty slide from Ackley for a much-needed insurance run.
“Ack was running the whole way,” Donnelly said. “It was luck of a draw at home plate. But he made a hell of a play.”
Fernando Rodney pitched a scoreless bottom of the ninth for his 37th save to secure the win.
The ninth-inning rally erased a frustrating sixth inning that started off with a bad break and ended with a bomb. Cespedes hit a towering three-run home run off Seattle starter Felix Hernandez that carried over the Green Monster and out of Fenway Park, probably landing somewhere on the Mass Turnpike. It looked like that would be the difference in the game.
“That changeup didn’t do anything,” Hernandez said of the pitch Cespedes hit. “Give credit to that guy. I threw four in a row and he was looking for it and I just missed my spot.”
Hernandez was cruising along, delivering his normal pitching goodness. He wasn’t as efficient as he had been in past starts, but he still hadn’t allowed a run in the first five innings. It started to derail in the sixth when the second-base bag got in the way. Daniel Nava’s bouncing ball up the middle bounced off the bag and into the outfield, allowing him to hustle it into a double.
Dustin Pedroia moved Nava to third with a ground ball to second base. With a bag open and David Ortiz already 2 for 2 in the game and 17 for his last 32, McClendon opted to intentionally walk him and face Cespedes in hopes of getting a double play. In a similar situation in the first inning, Hernandez was able to get Cespedes to ground into an inning-ending 5-4-3 double play.
But not this time.
“He had a good at-bat,” Hernandez said.