The Mariners appeared headed to a desultory end to one of their longest days of the season as afternoon turned into evening in Chicago on Sunday.
Down six runs and without a hit through five innings of a seven-inning game in the nightcap of a rainout-forced doubleheader, few would have questioned it had the Mariners turned meek and gone quietly into the night.
Instead, two innings later there the Mariners were, unleashing an uprising that caused the White Sox to call in closer Liam Hendriks to get the final two outs of a 7-5 Chicago win. It was a loss that Mariners manager Scott Servais thought might have said as much about his team as the victories in the first two games of the series.
“Really good effort by our guys,’’ Servais said of a team that scored one in the sixth and then three in the seventh, all on a homer by Mitch Haniger, to turn a 7-1 laugher into danger time for the home team. “At the end, nobody is giving at-bats away. We forced them to bring in their closer in a game they probably thought they had wrapped up. So it says a lot about how we are playing.’’
As did the entire series as Seattle took two of three from the American League Central leaders.
On Friday, the Mariners beat Carlos Rodon in a 9-3 win. And in the first game Sunday, they used timely hitting and dependable — and at times flashy — fielding, to pull off a 3-2 win on a Taylor Trammell homer with two outs in the top of the ninth in the completion of a game suspended Saturday.
That win — in a game that drew national attention when reliever Hector Santiago was tossed for suspicion of having sticky substances in his glove, an accusation the Mariners are disputing and think will get overturned — meant that had Seattle won the second game Sunday the Mariners could have tied a season high by going five games over .500, and doing so for the first time since April 24.
That goal, though, seemed a lost cause when the White Sox used a bases-loaded-clearing double by Zack Collins off Rafael Montero to take a 7-1 lead after four.
Seattle’s only run to that point had come without a hit in the third thanks to a bases-loaded walk by Kyle Seager.
The game was a weird one from the start with Seattle having to use five relievers to go the seven innings because scheduled started Marco Gonzales was back home to be with his wife, who is giving birth to the couple’s first child (Seattle used all 11 relievers it had available at some point during the day).
After the Collins double, it felt like time to start the buses.
But a Haniger double to lead off the sixth — Seattle’s first hit of the game — a Seager walk and a Dylan Moore single made it 7-2. When Jake Fraley then lined a single to left, a full-on comeback seemed on.
Instead, Seager was thrown out at the plate in a bang-bang play on a fabulous throw by White Sox right fielder Luis Gonzalez for the final out of the inning.
Should Seager have held up? Servais stopped short of claiming that, saying “certainly down in the game you don’t want to give up any outs on the bases. I thought Seags would score on that one. You’ve got to give the guy (Gonzalez) credit. He made a heck of a play.’’
That might have seemed like that.
Instead, with one out in the seventh, Trammell walked, Donovan Walton — in the game to give ironman shortstop J.P. Crawford a couple of innings off — was hit by a pitch and then Haniger homered off Jimmy Lambert, Haniger’s 17th of the season.
That forced the White Sox to bring in Hendriks, who had given up a game-winning homer to Trammell in the first game.
And maybe fittingly, the first batter he faced was Shed Long, who had been benched in the sixth inning of the first game for not running hard on a grounder to second. Long didn’t start the second game but entered in the sixth for Seager (playing second with Dylan Moore moving to third).
Long fell down 1-2, then took two balls, then fouled off four pitches on a full count. On the 10th pitch, he went down looking on a 98 mph fastball that just clipped the lower edge of the strike zone.
But if Long was maybe fooled by that pitch, Servais thought the at-bat showed the still just 25-year-old Long had learned something along the way.
Servais said after the first game Long had been taken out to show that the Mariners mean it when they say they have a standard for how the game should be played — meaning, play every pitch and at-bat like the game is on the line.
If Long briefly forgot about that in game one on a play in which he reached base anyway thanks to an error, he didn’t in game two.
“Great at-bat,’’ Servais said. “He’s had a lot of really good at-bats late in games for us. He continues to compete very well. He’ll be back out there again. He’s a good player. Growing pains. It happens once in a while.’’
Ty France then lined out to end the game, and after roughly six hours in a typically humid Chicago day, the Mariners were finally done.
Still, they have won seven of their past nine, are 13-11 in June, and at 41-38 are assured of having a winning record at the halfway point of the 162-game regular season as they now get a day off before playing Toronto in the unlikely locale of Buffalo.
“Got a lot of confidence with this group,’’ Servais said. “Just a little clunky with the rainout yesterday and going back-to-back today. But like I said, I thought we played really well in this series.’’