The speedy center fielder saved Steve Cishek’s save and the Mariners’ 1-0 victory over the Kansas City Royals with a brilliant, running, over-the-shoulder catch as he slammed face first into the wall to end the game.
In one brilliant display of athleticism, speed and fearlessness on Friday night, Leonys Martin showed just why general manager Jerry Dipoto traded for him this offseason.
The speedy center fielder saved Steve Cishek’s save situation and preserved the Mariners’ 1-0 victory over the Kansas City Royals with a brilliant, running, over-the-shoulder catch as he slammed face first into the wall to end the game.
“Man, that wall is really hard,” Martin said, noting that his face and chest took the punishment on the play.
Mariners vs. Royals,7:10 p.m., ROOT Sports
With two outs and a runner on second, Salvador Perez crushed a towering fly ball to center that appeared to be over Martin’s head.
“I knew it was a long way to run, and I knew it wasn’t going to be out of the ballpark,” he said. “After a few steps, I knew I had a chance to make the play.”
Martin kept running and churning up ground, nabbing the ball just as he plowed into the wall.
“Phenomenal catch,” manager Scott Servais said. “It doesn’t get a whole lot better. We were actually kind of playing semi-shallow. We didn’t want the (bloop) to hurt us. Salvi smoked that ball. Luckily, we were playing at home and there’s a lot of room out there. I thought (Martin) would get there. I didn’t know if it would stay in the park or not. He’s a phenomenal center fielder, and in this ballpark we’ve seen what an advantage that can be.”
Cishek could only watch from the mound hoping for the best.
“I was watching him track it and it seemed like he was under control,” Cishek said. “I was like, ‘Fall into that glove.’ ”
The catch gave Cishek his sixth save of the season, Felix Hernandez (2-2) his second win of the season and made Seth Smith’s solo homer — the Mariners’ only hit of the night — stand up.
Hernandez worked 72/3 shutout innings, giving up five hits with three walks and four strikeouts. It was the 145th win of his career, tying him with Jamie Moyer for most in club history.
“I know Jamie pretty well and it’s an honor to be up there with him,” Hernandez said.
In two starts at Safeco this season, Hernandez has thrown 152/3 innings without allowing a run.
“My stuff was good,” he said. “It’s tough. They have some good hitters. They foul off a lot of pitches, swing early and keep battling.”
The pinpoint command that Hernandez has spent the first month in search of appeared in glimpses. He had just one inning when he retired the side in order — the first. After that, a Royals runner reached base each of the next seven innings against him.
“Awesome outing from Felix tonight,” Servais said. “Really no room for error and he kept us right in the game. He really battled them. That’s a good team.”
The Royals got a runner to third with two outs in the eighth inning. Hernandez’s pitch count was at 115, and after a discussion with Hernandez, Servais then took the ball from his ace.
“Going into the inning, I was going to give him probably three hitters,” Servais said. “I’ve been in those discussions a lot over the course of my career. You kind of have a feeling if he has anything left or if he’s done.”
The crowd of 38,687 celebrated his effort with a standing ovation as he walked to the dugout.
Right-hander Nick Vincent came in and ended the inning, getting the ultra dangerous Lorenzo Cain to ground out to second to maintain the 1-0 lead.
Smith broke the scoreless tie when he led off the bottom of the sixth with a homer. It was Smith’s 100th career homer.
“I knew it had a chance,” Smith said. “I hit it really high with some backspin.”