Nelson Cruz singles in Ben Gamel, who led off the bottom of the 10th with a double. Gamel, Mike Zunino and Robinson Cano hit solo homers.
A year ago, Ben Gamel was stuck in Class AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre with minimal hope of making the Yankees’ 25-man roster. Buried on their organizational depth chart, he could only go out, play hard, put up numbers and hope someone would see his solid season that eventually earned him the MVP award of the International League.
Someone — specifically general manager Jerry Dipoto and the Mariners — noticed, acquiring him for a pair of low-level minor-league pitchers last August. It was largely a giveaway deal.
The player deemed expendable by the Yankees led off the bottom of the 10th inning with a double to deep center and later scored the winning run on Nelson Cruz’s single to left to give the Mariners a 6-5 walkoff win over the Yankees.
N.Y. Yankees @ Mariners, 1:10 p.m., ROOT Sports
After dropping the first two games of the series, Seattle momentarily stopped its struggles at Safeco Field and has a chance to salvage a series split on Sunday.
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“All night we really battled and stayed after it,” manager Scott Servais said. “It was a nice win. We needed it with kind of where we were rolling coming off the road. The Yankees got us the first couple. But our guys understood, the intensity level was certainly there tonight.”
If you are looking for Gamel to lash out at the organization that drafted, developed and ultimately moved on from him, you don’t know how the laid-back kid from Florida — who obsesses over fishing in the offseason — operates. He has no ill will toward the Yankees. He played with Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez, Ronald Torreyes and others. They are his friends.
“I have good relationships with those guys,” he said. “This is all in good fun. It’s competitive. Gary was giving me a hard time in between pitches.”
But Gamel is aware that if he were still in that organization, he likely wouldn’t be with his friends in the big leagues. But now he’s played himself into an everyday role for the Mariners.
“This is all very gratifying just to be here,” he said. “I can’t really put it into words. I can’t thank this organization enough for giving me an opportunity. It’s been kind of an up-and-down career so far, and I love it over here.”
Besides scoring the winning run, Gamel had a homer in the Mariners’ four-run third inning and threw out Clint Frazier at second on an attempt for a double in the first inning.
“He’s been great, not only with his bat,” Cruz said. “Defensively, he makes a big play every game. I can’t keep up with it.”
The mood of the sold-out crowd at Safeco Field soured in the late going — well, except for a noticeably vocal contingent of Yankee fans — when Edwin Diaz squandered Robinson Cano’s go-ahead homer in the eighth by giving the run right back in the bottom of the ninth. After walking the first batter of the inning, Diaz recorded two outs and was up 1-2 on the diminutive Torreyes. But a misplaced fastball resulted in a single to left that scored pinch-runner Jacoby Ellsbury with the tying run.
In yet another back-and-forth game, Seattle did most of its damage in the third inning against Yankees starter Masahiro Tanaka. The veteran right-hander came in to the game having allowed 24 homers on the season — third-most in the majors. Seattle put him in the lead for most given up by the time the inning ended.
With Seattle down 1-0, Mike Zunino tied the score, launching a solo homer into the Mariners’ bullpen. It was Zunino’s 14th homer in 71 games this season. Two batters later, Gamel produced the same result, launching a solo blast over the right-field wall to give Seattle a 2-1 lead. It was the sixth homer of the year for Gamel. The Mariners picked up two more runs with two outs. Danny Valencia and Mitch Haniger delivered back-to-back singles to push the lead to 4-1.
Judge launched a solo homer to right-center in the sixth to shave the lead to 4-3 off Steve Cishek.
Making his Mariners debut against his former team, right-hander David Phelps looked sharp, pitching a scoreless seventh inning and getting the first out of the eighth.