Two bunts and a bomb?
It’s not exactly the typical modern plan for offensive success, well, except for the home-run aspect.
But on a frigid night at Fenway Park with windchill temperatures just above freezing, the Mariners used a pair of sacrifice bunts and a big blast to rally for a 7-3 victory over the Red Sox in 10 innings.
“We can play some extra-inning games,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said. “It’s crazy how this team continues to find ways to come from behind and get it done. It wasn’t looking so great early on. We struggled to get a hit there.”
With the win, the Mariners improved to 12-7 on the season. They are tied with the A’s, who have won 11 games in a row, for the best record in the American League.
“We’ve got a lot of confidence growing with this club,” Servais said. “And it’s a fun group to be around right now.”
So how did the Mariners utilize those things for their sixth come-from-behind victory of the season?
Down 3-2 in the eighth inning, catcher Luis Torrens worked a leadoff walk against Red Sox reliever Adam Ottavino. Torrens was immediately replaced by pinch runner Sam Haggerty, which would prove useful later in the game. Haggerty annoyed reliever Adam Ottavino to the steal second and help pinch-hitter Jose Marmolejos work a walk. While teams loathe to give away outs, the strategy to have No. 9 hitter J.P. Crawford sacrifice bunt the runners up 90 feet was obvious.
The Mariners got more than 90 feet when Ottavino fielded Crawford’s bunt back to the mound and made a poor throw to third base that Rafael Devers couldn’t corral. It allowed Haggerty to hustle home with the tying run.
In the 10th inning with Evan White starting on second base, Taylor Trammell put down a perfect sac bunt and Haggerty, making his first at-bat of the night, ripped a double over the head of left fielder Franchy Cordero to score White. It was the second time in the game Cordero misplayed a ball and let it get over his head. It was also only the Mariners’ second hit of the game.
“When I hit it, at first I thought I hit it well enough for him to tag up and to score the run at the bare minimum, a sac fly,” Haggerty said. “But fortunately it landed and we kept the rally going.”
As a visiting team, a 4-3 lead in extra innings isn’t necessarily a guaranteed win with the home team also starting the inning with a runner on second base. The Mariners had also already gotten scoreless innings from Will Vest, Kendall Graveman and Rafael Montero. But Mitch Haniger provided the insurance needed with a three-run bomb to right-center to make it 7-3. It was his fifth homer of the season.
Of Seattle’s three hits on the night, they drove in six of the seven runs scored by the Mariners.
“None of them were bigger than Haggerty,” Servais said. “You’re sitting there all night, the temperatures are about 40 degrees here and it’s windy. He gets out in the ballgame, gets a big stolen base to create some havoc there in the eighth inning, and then the big knock in the 10th before Hanny’s three-run homer.”
With Fenway’s limited space and resources, Haggerty had to improvise about staying warm during the game and being ready.
“You’ve just got to stay in the game (mentally), you’ve got to stay in tune with the pitchers and your teammates and the flow of the game,” he said. “Then you just got to be looking for that opportunity and want to get in. At that point, the rest will take care of itself.”
Anthony Misiewicz pitched a scoreless bottom of the 10th to secure the win over the American League East-leading Red Sox.
The end was much more productive than the start for Seattle.
For almost six innings, the Mariners were no-hit by Red Sox starter Nick Pivetta.
But with two outs in the sixth, J.P. Crawford wouldn’t give on a 2-2 count. He shrugged off two pitches that he could’ve easily swung at and took a walk.
Haniger showed a similar discipline, working a 3-0 count, taking a hittable strike and then refusing to chase a high fastball for another walk.
It did look like Pivetta might escape the inning when his 2-1 slider to Ty France was called a strike despite being four inches off the plate — taking the count to 2-2 instead of 3-1. In the 2019 season, MLB hitters produced a .180/.185/.298 slash line on 2-2 counts vs. a .363/.711/.713 slash line on 3-1 counts. But after France fouled off a fastball away, Pivetta tried to throw that same slider off the plate. Unlike the previous slider, this was actually on the plate and hittable. France smoked a line-drive over the head of leaping left fielder Cordero. It scored both runs and tied the score at 2-2.
Seattle got a decent, but pitch-filled outing from starter Justin Dunn. The young right-hander, who had a brilliant career at Boston College, gave the Mariners five innings, allowing two runs on six hits with a walk, a hit by pitch and five strikeouts. With his parents, brother, friends and his old college coach watching, Dunn dealt with traffic on the bases every inning, which isn’t an uncommon occurrence.
But his first run allowed came in the second when Rafael Devers led off the inning with a solo blast to the right field seats on a 1-0 fastball on the inside corner. `
The Red Sox pushed the lead to 2-0 in the fourth when Devers led off with a single, stole second and later scored on Hunter Renfroe’s single to right field.
The Mariners bullpen, which had come into the game having held opponents scoreless for 19 1/3 innings and not allowed an earned run in 24 1/3 innings, had that streak snapped in the seventh inning. Casey Sadler gave up a leadoff triple to Kiké Hernandez, which was misplayed off the Green Monster by left fielder Taylor Trammell and center fielder Kyle Lewis, who have never played in the unique old ballpark. Hernandez would later score when Luis Torrens allowed a blockable curveball in the dirt to get past him for a wild pitch.