It was the type of play that went against the Mariners two months ago when they couldn’t get out of Cleveland fast enough.
But not even the dastardly Indians could dream up a scenario quite as implausible as what happened Tuesday night in the ninth inning of this 4-3 win by the Mariners. The only thing standing in the way of an eighth consecutive Mariners win was the Indians having runners at the corners and nobody out.
That’s when third baseman Kyle Seager ran in on a slow chopper and began an unbelievable 5-4-2-6 double play that turned the tide. Tom Wilhelmsen ended the game with a called strikeout, and all of a sudden the Mariners can start to dream of much bigger things.
“You don’t see that play too often,’’ Seager said in a boisterous clubhouse. “I’d say that was pretty well-executed on a lot of parts.’’
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The 16,308 fans at Safeco Field would say so as well, erupting in an explosive ovation when pinch-runner Drew Stubbs was tagged out between third and home to cap the double play. Moments earlier, those same fans seemed resigned to Wilhelmsen blowing the save after consecutive singles put the speedy Stubbs on third base.
But then Yan Gomes hit the chopper to Seager, who glanced at Stubbs once before making a throw to second base.
“When it was hit to me, I was just trying to make sure he didn’t … break home,’’ Seager said of the freezing look.
The ball wasn’t hit that hard, so the chances of turning a double play would be tough. Second baseman Nick Franklin said his priority was to get at least one out at second in taking the tough-angled throw.
Franklin was planning to throw on to first to attempt the twin-killing in any event. But then he saw Stubbs out of the corner of his eye inch just a little too far toward home.
“I was kind of surprised,’’ Franklin said. “I didn’t think he was going to try to go home.’’
Franklin instead glanced once at Stubbs – freezing him momentarily – then fired a strike to catcher Mike Zunino. Stubbs was hung up in no-man’s land from there, and Zunino played it right.
“You have to just get him going one way,’’ Zunino said. “And then you have to get him going back to third and get him to commit one way. And then give up the ball, and hopefully he’s got to put on the brakes.’’
Mariners shortstop Brad Miller took the final throw and tagged Stubbs out with surprisingly little resistance. That was huge because it didn’t allow Gomes to move up into scoring position.
With a little more comfort zone, Wilhelmsen made the pitches he had to, and the final one was good enough to catch Michael Bourn looking at a game-ending strike.
“It’s a lot of fun when things are going well,’’ Wilhelmsen said after his second adventurous save in as many nights. “That’s the way things have been going lately for everybody. Everyone’s just having a great time in the clubhouse and on the field.’’
And now, having moved four games from .500 after being a dozen back when this streak began, the Mariners have a chance to take off on a season-altering run. They survived a shaky first few innings by Erasmo Ramirez, who fell behind 3-1 after a towering two-run homer by Gomes in the second, and emerged with the streak intact.
The Indians helped them out with three early errors and a costly wild pitch by starter Zach McAllister in a three-run third by Seattle that decided things. Raul Ibanez and Kendrys Morales opened the third with doubles to make it a 3-2 game and then – after Morales was thrown out trying to score on an ensuing single by Seager – Michael Saunders doubled to put runners at second and third.
That’s when McAllister – making his first start after seven weeks on the disabled list – uncorked a wild pitch with Zunino at the plate. Seager came sprinting home with the tying run while Saunders moved to third and soon scored the go-ahead run on a Zunino single to right.
Geoff Baker: 206-464-8286 or email@example.com.
On Twitter @gbakermariners