Left fielder Guillermo Heredia made the play of the game in Wednesday’s 4-1 win over the Astros.
HOUSTON — It’s a scenario that the Mariners have endured far too many times at Minute Maid Park. An early lead is lost in the late innings in dramatic fashion thanks to the hitter-friendly confines of the stadium, specifically the short porch in left known as the Crawford Boxes.
So in the eighth inning when George Springer led off with a single and Jose Altuve hit a laser of a line drive off the wall of the Crawford Boxes off reliever Nick Vincent, it appeared the Mariners were trending toward more heartbreak.
“You are thinking, ‘here we go,’” manager Scott Servais said.
But something happened on Altuve’s rocket off the wall that allowed the Mariners to get out of the inning without allowing a run.
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Left fielder Guillermo Heredia made the play of the game. The ball Altuve hit came off the wall so hard that Heredia was standing there and caught it off the ricochet. He wheeled and fired a perfect throw to third base where Kyle Seager caught the ball and applied the tag to the speedy and stunned Springer, who was out by a step. It was the first out of the inning and it couldn’t have been more important.
“Play of the game,” Servais said. “He has a tremendous throwing arm. Not just the velocity — a lot of guys in this league can throw it hard from the outfield — but he’s so accurate, and that really is a separator.”
Heredia didn’t have time to think about much on the play.
“It was more reaction than it was a play,” Heredia said through interpreter Fernando Alcala. “In that situation, you just have to react, especially off that wall. You take what you can get and make the play.”
The unique outfield of Minute Maid doesn’t make it a favorite among outfielders because of the outcroppings and lack of symmetry to it.
“It’s a tough ballpark to play in,” Heredia said. “The outfield is not really padded and it’s got weird dimensions so you have to be really careful when balls are hit over your head.”
Did he know he had Springer as soon as he let the ball go?
“No, I was just doing my job and I thought I had a chance,” he said. “Fortunately, it worked out.”
Across the outfield, right fielder Ben Gamel, who has made his share of highlight-reel plays this season, watched in admiration.
“Unreal, what a play,” Gamel said. “I don’t know what they call it — five-star plays or whatever. That was a five-star play. It’s everything that goes into it and Springer can run too so it’s not like there’s a slow runner on first base. He had to be perfect and he was.”
With the first out on the board, the Mariners still found more drama when Jean Segura committed a throwing error on a routine ground ball off the bat of Yuli Gurriel. It put runners on first and third with one out and the tying run at the plate. But the bullpen closed it out. Vincent struck out Evan Gattis for the second out. With the switch-hitting Carlos Beltran coming to the plate, Servais went to lefty Marc Rzepczynski to turn him to the right-handed side. Rzepczynski struck out Beltran swinging to end the threat.
• The Mariners have promoted hard-throwing reliever Thyago Vieira from Class AA Arkansas to Class AAA Tacoma. He joined the Rainiers in Albuquerque on Wednesday. Armed with a fastball that can touch 102 mph and an improving slider, Vieira made 29 appearances with the Travelers, posting a 2-3 record with two saves and a 3.76 ERA.
• Mariners top pitching prospect Nick Neidert has also been bumped up a level after dominating the Cal League with Class A Modesto. Neidert has been promoted to Class AA Arkansas. Neidert was brilliant for Modesto, making 19 starts and posting a 10-3 record with a 2.76 ERA. He allowed three runs or less in 18 of those starts. In his last five starts, he was 5-0 with a 1.45 ERA with 27 strikeouts and seven walks.