BOSTON – In the span of 24 hours, Rich Donnelly ran the entire circle of fan emotion as the Mariners’ third-base coach.
In Friday night’s crazy 5-3 comeback win, Donnelly sent Dustin Ackley home, having him score from first base on Robinson Cano’s RBI single to right field to provide the last run of the Mariners’ big ninth-inning rally.
“I was surprised, for sure,” Ackley said. “I was running on the pitch and kept running hard to third. He kept waving and waving and I was like, ‘Well, I’ll just keep running.’ I wasn’t expecting it at all because I thought it was just a one- or two-hopper to right and he’s going to shut me down any second.”
Right fielder Daniel Nava seemed to expect the same, never considering Ackley would be trying to score. He casually tossed the ball to the cutoff man, Dustin Pedroia, who had to turn and fire home at the last second. Ackley made a nice slide to the corner of the plate for the run.
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“Ack was running the whole way — the whole way,” Donnelly said. “It was luck of the draw at home plate. It was close, and he made a heckuva slide.”
Because it was a 3-2 count, Donnelly knew that Ackley, who has above-average speed, would be running on the pitch and have a head start.
So what else went into Donnelly’s thinking?
“I noticed (Nava) was playing deeper than the guy before him and I said, ‘If he hits the ball to his right or left and he lobs it to second, I’m sending him,’ ” Donnelly said. “Pedroia made a heck of a play in making it close. He heard the crowd and he just turned and threw. A lot of other guys would have hesitated, but I thought he made a heck of a play to recognize what was going on, since he had his back turned.”
Manager Lloyd McClendon lauded the decision.
“Unbelievable,” he said. “I’ve always said you show me a third-base coach that doesn’t get anybody thrown out and I’ll show you a very bad third-base coach. Rich is willing to take the right chances in the right situations, and that was just an unbelievable send. Too often third-base coaches don’t get the credit for those type of things. That was just tremendous.”
Donnelly showed that willingness to take risks again on Saturday. In the second inning, he gambled on the arm of Yoenis Cespedes and lost. With Kyle Seager on second, having singled to start the inning, Donnelly waved him home on Jesus Sucre’s two-out single to left field.
Seager was running on contact, but the ball was right to Cespedes and his thunderbolt of a throwing arm. Cespedes unleashed a perfect laser throw to catcher David Ross, who actually had to wait a few seconds before tagging out Seager.
It was Cespedes’ 14th outfield assist this season. The Mariners didn’t give him a chance for No. 15. In the fifth inning, Chris Denorfia doubled to left with runners on — Seager on first and Kendrys Morales on second. This time Donnelly held Seager at third base, not testing Cespedes’ arm.
Around the league
• The Nationals had their 10-game winning streak snapped Friday night. But more impressive than the consecutive wins was how they did it. Five of the last six games in the streak came on walkoff hits — something no team has done since the 1986 Houston Astros. Three of those walkoff wins came after the Nationals blew the save in the ninth.
“I really don’t have the correct or the right words to say what the feeling is,” center fielder Denard Span told reporters. “Other than saying that we just feel confident, that some how, some way, we’re going to inch out a victory.”
• Rangers power-hitting prospect Joey Gallo hit his 40th homer of the minor-league season earlier this week. The 40 homers are combined over stints with Class A Myrtle Beach (21) and Class AA Frisco (19). The homer totals still lead the league of each respective team. It’s the second straight year Gallo has hit 40 homers. Last year, he hit 38 homers for Class A Hickory to go with two homers in five games in the Arizona rookie league.
• Tigers second baseman Ian Kinsler ended a 43-game drought — the longest of his career — between home runs when he hit a leadoff homer off Minnesota’s Tommy Milone. Kinsler’s last homer before that came July 3 against Tampa when he led off the game with a homer off Erik Bedard. That’s a span of 196 plate appearances.
• Houston designated hitter Chris Carter belted his 30th homer Tuesday night against the Yankees. He became the first Houston player to hit 30 homers in a season since Lance Berkman and Carlos Lee both did it in 2007.