While the epic 10-run rally against San Diego in June is the comeback most fans remember, Seattle players spread the credit when it comes to other recent rallies.
“San Diego. That was crazy. I mean, we were down 10 runs.” — Mariners third baseman Kyle Seager, on his favorite comeback this season.
You’d think that game would win this informal survey in a landslide, but it has stiffer competition than you might imagine. Not even a historic turnaround at Petco Park — where the Mariners rallied from a 12-2 deficit to beat the Padres in June — could sprint out to a decisive victory here.
It’s one thing for a team to have a propensity for late-game chase-downs, but it’s another for every one of them to have such a distinct flavor. So on Wednesday I polled Seattle’s clubhouse and asked: If you have to choose one comeback as your favorite this season, which would it be?
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“The other night when Robbie (Cano) hit the home run off (Fernando) Abad. It was another late-inning comeback, and it was a packed house,” Mariners catcher Mike Zunino said. “It’s always great when there’s a bunch of fans and you can do it for them.”
That Cano blast two Wednesdays ago capped a five-run eighth inning in Seattle’s 5-4 win over Boston. And though the Mariners (60-53) lost the following night, they haven’t dropped a game since.
What they have done, however, is dazzle the crowd on an almost nightly basis. They have taken the “Gladiator” approach to just about every victory this homestand, emphasizing entertainment over dominance. And in doing so, Seattle is somehow 1½ games out of the wild-card race despite standing pat at the trade deadline and sending starting pitcher Taijuan Walker to the minors. How in God’s name have they managed to pull this off? How have they been able to use comeback after comeback to make this massive comeback?
“My favorite was (Tuesday) night,” said Cano, referring to the 6-5, 15-inning win over Detroit. “We tied the game in the eighth inning, and they scored again in the 15th. We had chances to win the game earlier, and they (the Tigers) came back and scored. To be able to come back tells me how much these guys want to win and how much we fight.”
That was reliever Vidal Nuno’s favorite, too, because it showcased the depth of the bullpen in extra innings. Hero-by-committee, after all, has been the theme throughout this winning streak.
It doesn’t matter if you’re a seven-time All-Star or a what’s-his-name from Tri-Cities. If you’re on the Mariners’ roster, chances are the spotlight has snagged you at least once.
“I think the popular answer is the one where we came back against San Diego, but if I was going to throw one more out there, I thought the other night when (Shawn) O’Malley hit the three-run homer,” pitcher James Paxton said. “That was probably my favorite aside from the one where we came back from 10 runs down.”
O’Malley, a Richland native, played in 11 big-league games in 2014, 24 last year and 57 this year. Yet his seventh-inning shot in an 8-6 win over the Angels on Saturday has the potential for legendary status if the Mariners make a playoff run.
Unfortunately, if they don’t make the postseason, all of these feats would fall into the Jermaine Kearse Pile of Forgotten Heroics. Until then, though, they have combined to skyrocket the Mariners’ confidence heading into the final 49 games of the season.
Yes, the Hollywood moments have been abundant this year. I haven’t even mentioned Adam Lind’s pinch-hit, three-run, walkoff homer to beat the White Sox last month, which happened to be Nick Vincent’s favorite.
And perhaps the most endearing thing of all is how quick the Mariners are to spread the credit around. Cano picked a comeback in which Zunino won the game via a sacrifice fly. Zunino picked a comeback in which Cano had the big swing. Leonys Martin picked the San Diego game despite not having an at-bat.
Hey Dae-Ho, if you could pick one comeback this year as your favorite, what would be? I asked first baseman Dae-Ho Lee.
He did not pause.