Just call him Jean, Jean the walkoff machine. After Mitch Haniger's two-run bomb tied the game in the ninth, the top of the M's order came through again to rally and win it in the 11th.
A homestand that began with about the worst possible news for the Mariners — the 80-game suspension of All-Star Robinson Cano — ended with about the best possible sight, Seattle players piling on Jean Segura in the giddy celebration of the team’s first win this season when trailing heading into the ninth inning.
It was a celebration of a 3-2, 11-inning win over the Tigers that came only after the Mariners spent much of the day flirting with infamy as Detroit starter Francisco Liriano had a no-hitter going until Mitch Haniger broke it up with one out in the seventh.
And it was a celebration that came on a day when the Mariners needed Haniger’s two-run homer with one out in the ninth to tie the game, then needed two more innings to win it before Segura’s single down the first-base line scored Dee Gordon from second.
That so much had to happen for Seattle to pull off maybe its most improbable win of the year — the Mariners had been 0-17 when trailing after eight innings — might have made it the win that spoke loudest to manager Scott Servais about the kind of team the Mariners are this season.
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“The heart that this club has is pretty, pretty impressive,” Servais said. “It really is. These guys, they just keep battling through adversity, one thing after another. We’ve had some injuries, we’ve got some guys out, guys hobbling around out there. … It really says a lot about this team. These guys really, really enjoy playing with each other and they feed off of each other, which is a great thing to see.”
The win was also Seattle’s third in a row and kept the Mariners in second place in the American League West and improved their record to 27-19, a season-high eight games over .500, the best since they were 86-76 to end the 2016 season.
It came on a day when Seattle was not only without Cano but also without Nelson Cruz, who got the day off due to a sore elbow suffered when he was hit by a pitch on Saturday, and with Mike Zunino and Ben Gamel getting most of the day off.
For a while, the lineup looked like Seattle was waving a white flag and living to fight another day as the Mariners flailed time and again through the first eight innings against the 34-year-old Liriano, who at one point retired 17 consecutive hitters with a steady diet of breaking pitches. His fastball topped out at an unremarkable 92 miles per hour.
Haniger noted that many of Seattle’s hitters hadn’t faced Liriano a lot. Haniger never had until Sunday.
“He was throwing a lot of off-speed and we weren’t really able to lay off or drive it,” Haniger said.
Fittingly, it was a 91-mile-an-hour fastball that Haniger drove into left-center for Seattle’s first hit in the seventh.
But any hope that would open the floodgates against Liriano evaporated as he continued to mow down the Mariners in the rest of the seventh and the eighth, clinging to a 2-0 lead given to him when John Hicks homered off Mariner starter Wade LeBlanc in the first.
That was one of seven hits LeBlanc allowed in 5 2/3 innings. But LeBlanc got the key outs when he needed them to prevent any further damage. The Mariners also made a critical defensive play in the sixth when a relay from left fielder Andrew Romine to third baseman Gordon Beckham to catcher David Freitas gunned down Detroit catcher James McCann trying to score from first on a double by Jose Iglesias.
Servais noted that Romine’s throw overshot the primary cutoff man, Segura, at short.
“It wasn’t perfect,” he said with a smile. “But it was an out and at that point in the game keeping it at 2-0 was a big deal.”
Also a big deal was six relievers — all rested thanks to James Paxton’s complete game the night before — shutting out the Tigers in their collective 5 2/3 innings of work.
With Liriano at 102 pitches after eight, the Tigers went to closer Shane Greene.
“You were just hoping to hang in there and get a mistake,” Servais said.
With one out, Segura reached on an infield single and advanced to second when Iglesias’ throw went into the stands.
Then the Mariners got their mistake — a slider from Greene on an 0-2 count that hung over the plate that Haniger smashed 415-feet for a home run. Nine of his 11 home runs this season have come in the seventh inning or later.
Haniger had just barely missed a home run on a long foul on a similar slider on the first pitch of the at-bat.
“I was just trying to protect with two strikes and he just threw the same spot, kind of hung it, and able to put a good swing on it,” Haniger said.
It also seemed a given from there that Seattle — which had rallied from a 4-0 deficit in the seventh inning on Friday to pull out a 5-4 win — would get the victory.
Victory arrived in the 11th when Gordon, playing with a sore toe after fouling a ball off of it in Toronto last week that he tweaked further when diving for a popup in top of the 11th, singled and stole second off Detroit reliever Buck Farmer.
Segura, who entered the day leading the majors with RBI with runners in scoring position with 28, got another, lining a shot over first base to score Gordon.
“It tells you what kind of team you have,” Segura said. “It tells you what group of guys you have in the clubhouse, every day grinding every at-bat. It’s amazing how we battle, especially with those two guys out (Cano and Cruz) for a period of time. It’s unbelievable.”