We know this about these Mariners nine games into the 2021 season — they ain’t giving up.
Kyle Seager hit a towering three-run home run in the top of the ninth inning to complete yet another major comeback for the Mariners, who turned a six-run deficit into an 8-6 victory to claim a series win over the Minnesota Twins on Sunday afternoon at Target Field in Minneapolis.
Seager’s ninth-inning home run — off one-time Seattle closer Alex Colome — was his second of the game. Seager started the Mariners’ comeback in the sixth inning with a solo homer off Twins starter Matt Shoemaker.
Seager reached base in all five of his plate appearances, with four hits and a walk. He had entered Sunday hitting just .226 with a .584 on-base-plus-slugging percentage. He’ll enter Monday with a .314 average and a .928 OPS.
“Colome is tough,” Seager said. “I played with him here (with the Mariners in 2018) and seen his cutter in action, and he gets a lot of ground balls. In that situation, you’re just trying to get a pitch up and hit it in the air. … It felt good off the bat, and I was definitely excited it did get out.”
It was the Mariners’ largest come-from-behind victory since June 2, 2016, when they beat the Padres after trailing 12-2 in the fifth inning. Seager is the only player left on the Seattle roster who played in that game.
Sunday, the M’s trailed 6-0 through five.
“What a comeback,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said. “It doesn’t get a whole lot better.”
Rafael Montero retired the heart of the Twins’ lineup — Nelson Cruz, Byron Buxton and Max Kepler — in order to close it out for the Mariners. It was his second save of the season.
The Mariners have shown an ability to fight this season.
On opening day against San Francisco, they turned a 5-0 deficit into an 8-7 walk-off victory.
It was a similar situation against the White Sox last Wednesday. The Mariners trailed 4-1 before a seven-run rally in the sixth inning prompted an 8-4 victory.
Sunday, the Twins jumped on Seattle starter Chris Flexen en route to their 6-0 lead.
The Mariners’ at-bats, meanwhile, were mostly futile against Shoemaker, the veteran right-hander who surrendered just two hits through the first five innings.
The Mariners appeared headed toward a lazy Sunday blowout on the road.
“It’s not looking good at that point, obviously,” Seager said.
Servais and Seager both pointed to the work of Seattle’s bullpen Sunday as being decisive. Will Vest threw two scoreless innings and Drew Steckenrider (1-1) pitched a scoreless eighth inning to keep the Mariners close.
“It was a really nice job by the bullpen to come in for the second half of this game and shut down an extremely good offense,” Seager said. “That was a huge part of it.”
The Mariners rallied for four runs in the sixth inning and one more in the seventh to cut their deficit to one run.
Seager led off the sixth by belting Shoemaker’s hanging curveball deep out past right field for his first home run of the season.
Rookie Taylor Trammell crushed an 81-mph changeup 421 feet out to right — a three-run shot that got the Mariners to 6-4 behind. That came one day after Trammell’s first career home run, a solo shot that just sneaked over the wall at 371 feet.
Ty France scored on a Dylan Moore fielder’s choice in the seventh to get the Mariners to 6-5 down.
Mitch Haniger and France opened the ninth with back-to-back singles, which brought Seager to the plate for his decisive at-bat.
Servais had been ejected in the seventh inning for arguing against an umpires’ warning issued to Vest, who had plunked Buxton in the back with an 85-mph changeup. (France had been hit by two pitches earlier in the game.) So Servais was left to watch the rest of the game, and Seager’s ninth-inning at-bat, from the visiting manager’s office.
Seager took two borderline strikes from home-plate umpire Manny Gonzalez that clearly annoyed the Mariners’ third baseman.
“I’m watching in the office and yelling at the umpire on the TV, just like everybody else is,” Servais said. “Those are fairly close pitches. … ‘Seags’ hung in there. It only takes one. You’ve got to keep fighting through it. (Colome) pitched him really tough, but he made a mistake and Kyle was ready for it.”
Flexen allowed six runs (five earned) on eight hits in five innings. Cruz and Buxton did most of the damage, as they did all series. It was Buxton’s two-run homer in the fifth that made it 6-0; he was 8 for 12 in the series with two homers and five runs batted in.
The Mariners came into Sunday ranked last in the American League with just six home runs through their first eight games. They hit three homers Sunday, and their 14 hits were a season high.
“Those games are fun because it’s really easy to pack it in,” Servais said. “But you keep grinding and you keep having good at-bats, and (now) we’ve got some young guys gaining confidence here. It’s a nice win.”
At 5-4, the Mariners won their second series of the season. They continue their first road trip of the season with a four-game series in Baltimore starting on Monday.
“It’s certainly a confidence thing, right?” Seager said of the three recent comeback victories. “So you’ve got this young group, and you can be told from an individual standpoint how good you are and all this other stuff, but until you actually have success, especially at the big-league level, there’s a confidence that goes with that. So when you have guys that (are) having some success and able to come back and win games, that’s big — it’s good for the morale.”