Justin Smoak wasn’t sure what happened. One second he saw the ball come screaming off the bat of Adrian Beltre, the next he was airborne and then it all got a little fuzzy.
With a leap and a grab, Smoak ripped looming defeat out of the air and secured victory for the Mariners, making a brilliant diving catch of Beltre’s rocket line drive and then scrambling to his feet and touching first base to double off Elvis Andrus and complete a game-ending double play. It secured a wild 6-5 win on Friday night at Safeco Field.
Beltre just stood in the baseline. He’d barely gotten out of the batter’s box.
“It’s a little surreal,” he said. “When I hit it, I thought he had no chance. Somehow he reacted really fast and made a hell of a play.”
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Smoak couldn’t really describe the game-saving play.
“I don’t know,” Smoak said. “I kind of blacked out there for a second.”
The crowd of 31,145 was almost at black-out level as the ninth inning spiraled out of control.
Closer Fernando Rodney, who has yet to make any save situation simple this season, took an interesting route to notch his fourth save of the season.
Coming in with a 6-3 lead, Rodney gave up a leadoff single to pinch-hitter Mitch Moreland. It looked like that runner would be erased when pinch-hitter Luis Sardinas hit a ground ball to third base for a likely double play ball. However, Smoak couldn’t quite handle the relay throw from Robinson Cano, dropping the second out.
“Normally, I don’t drop those balls,” Smoak said. “It was one of those tweeners. Do I stretch out and get it, or is it going to bounce? I just kind of botched it there.”
Smoak may have botched that play, but Rodney didn’t make things easy for himself. He gave up a single to Leonys Martin and hit Josh Wilson to load the bases. Rodney then issued back-to-back walks as the lead shrunk to 6-5 with Beltre coming to the plate.
Rodney wasn’t concerned when the ball came off Beltre’s bat.
“In that situation, I was looking for a ground ball for a double play to end the game,” Rodney said. “I made a good pitch, line drive to first and game over.”
Sure, if it was only that simple.
“That’s Fernando,” Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon said. “Most of the time, he’s going to have you on the top step. Most of the time, he gets it done. It probably wasn’t all his doing. We could have made it easier if we turn the double play.”
With the walkoff win on Wednesday against the Astros, Seattle won back-to-back games for the first time since the series sweep of the Angels to start the season.
While Smoak’s glove helped save the game, his bat helped rally the Mariners in the eighth inning to take the lead.
Trailing 3-2, Smoak stepped to the plate with the bases loaded and no outs against reliever Neal Cotts.
In the past, Smoak might have panicked when he fell behind in the count. In the past, he might have swung over the 2-2 slider that was an inside by a few inches. In the past, the moment might have been too big for him.
But not this time.
Smoak coolly worked a 3-2 count and jumped on a cut fastball, hammering a two-run double into left field.
“I was able to fight it out there,” Smoak said. “I didn’t really barrel it up. I was just trying to put it in play.”
When Cano and pinch-runner Michael Saunders crossed home pate on the Smoak double for the tying and go-ahead runs, they represented the first runs the Mariners scored in an eighth inning all season.
Seattle got some key insurance runs after Smoak’s double to provide some needed cushion for Rodney. Kyle Seager continued his recent run of hot hitting, dumping a single into left to score another run. Smoak later scored on wild pitch from Alexi Ogando to make it 6-3.
The Mariners got a solid start from lefty Roenis Elias. The rookie starter pitched 52
3 innings, giving up three runs on five hits with three walks and five strikeouts.
Down 2-0, the Mariners got a lift from Cano in the fifth inning.
After failing to come through in a similar situation two innings before, he delivered. With two outs and runners on first and second, Cano scorched a double to left-center, scoring Abraham Almonte and Willie Bloomquist to tie the score at 2-2.
Ryan Divish: 206-464-2373