At Texas, closer Edwin Diaz allowed a pair of singles in the bottom of the 12th inning, but notched his 42nd save of the season.
ARLINGTON, Texas — As Edwin Diaz’s nasty slider dived past the flailing bat of Shin-Soo Choo for the final out of the game, manager Scott Servais put his head down for a moment and exhaled while his team spilled onto the field to celebrate their 4-3 victory over the Rangers. Relief? Exhaustion? It was finally over about an hour later than need be.
A game that his team should have won comfortably in nine innings was instead pushed to a 12-inning marathon in the high-90s sauna that was Globe Life Park on Monday night because of bullpen decisions in the seventh inning. Decisions he still had to wear even in victory. Such is the life of a Major League manager.
“I’m happy we won this game,” Servais said with a drained look on his face.
With two outs in the top of the 12th, Ryon Healy broke a 3-3 tie, pulling a hard ground ball past a diving Adrian Beltre and just out of the reach of shortstop Elvis Andrus into left, scoring Mitch Haniger from second base with the go-ahead run.
“I got my pitch,” Healy said. “I got myself in a good count in a big situation. I wasn’t trying to do too much.”
Off the bat, he wasn’t certain that it would get past the future Hall of Famer at third base. Every hitter in the American League West has felt the awful disappointment of Beltre robbing a sure basehit.
“I never feel comfortable when I hit a ball his way and Elvis Andrus is no slouch,” Healy said. “That man (Beltre) is an unbelievable defender. It took me a while to see the ball get to the outfield, but once I did there was a sigh of relief.”
Diaz’s MLB-leading 42nd save wasn’t exactly easy. He allowed a leadoff single to Robinson Chirinos and a one-out single to Isiah Kiner-Falefa. But he got Willie Calhoun to pop out in foul territory and then struck out Choo.
The Mariners improved to 9-1 in extra-inning games and 65-48 overall on the season.
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“No matter how many innings it takes, we had to win that game,” said catcher Mike Zunino.
A main reason for that urgency was having the game in control with a 3-0 lead only to see two relievers acquired in trades this season (to help out in the middle innings) nearly give it all away in the seventh inning.
Coming off a sluggish start in his previous outing, lefty Wade LeBlanc was outstanding. He allowed just one hit and two total base runners over six shutout innings while striking out four as his teammates built that three-run lead. With sweat soaking his cap and leaving his uniform drenched, LeBlanc started the seventh and quickly retired Rougned Odor, who was named American League player of the week earlier in the day, for the first out. Andrus picked up the only other hit LeBlanc would allow in the game, singling off the glove of a diving Jean Segura.
With the always dangerous Beltre coming to the plate, Servais opted to go to right-hander Adam Warren and play the matchup. LeBlanc exited the game having thrown 82 pitches.
“Wade LeBlanc was outstanding,” Servais said. “But we got to that point in the game and I felt good about going to the bullpen there. The thought going into it and where Wade was, I was trying to manage the game, I thought, giving the ball with a little wiggle room to our bullpen looking for two more outs before we go to (Alex) Colome. It didn’t happen, obviously.”
Indeed, the strategy went Custer-level bad. Warren walked Beltre on four pitches and then gave up an RBI double to Jurickson Profar on a 0-2 slider to make it 3-1. It only got worse. Warren hit Robinson Chirinos with a pitch on the hand to load the bases. The Mariners argued that the ball hit the bat first, causing Chirinos’ pinkie finger to move. A replay challenge was asked for, but the call on the field was upheld.
With lefty slugger Joey Gallo coming to the plate, Servais went to lefty specialist Zach Duke, who was acquired on the same day as Warren, to play the matchups again. Duke got up 1-2 on Gallo in the count and then tossed three straight balls, walking Gallo and forcing in another run to make it 3-2.
Servais made it three pitching changes in the inning, calling on Colome to clean up the mess in the seventh before getting to pitch the eighth. It didn’t exactly happen. He immediately gave up an RBI single to Kiner-Falefa that tied the game at 3-3. Colome did retire the next two hitters to end an inning where all nine batters came to the plate.
“The walks hurt as much as possible,” Servais said. “Our guys in the seventh really struggled.”
LeBlanc also looked to be in pain, silently standing on the top deck of the dugout watching it all transpire. In line for a well-earned win, he settled for a pat-on-the-back no decision. He wasn’t bitter about being pulled.
“You want your guys to do well,” he said. “Any time you see anybody on your team having a rough go, it sucks. I want those guys to do well, not just because it’s my game, but any time. I want those guys to be perfect every time. The truth is they aren’t going to be. But more often than not, they’re very, very good. I’ll take my chances with those guys any day.”
After giving up the lead in the seventh, the Mariners bullpen does deserve some credit for keeping the game tied. Colome worked a scoreless eighth, while Nick Vincent, James Pazos and Sam Tuivailala worked scoreless frames to set up closer Diaz with the one-run lead in the 12th. The Mariners covered the final five innings scoreless.
“Colome picked us up, big night with five outs,” Servais said. “I don’t think we’ve ever asked him to do that before. But he stopped the bleeding there and kept it tied. The rest of the bullpen was outstanding.”
Zunino gave the Mariners a 1-0 lead in the fourth inning, hammering his 14th homer of the season — a solo blast to left field — off Rangers starter Martin Perez. It was his second of three hits on the night off Perez.
Zunino has faced Perez in 14 at-bats in his career. He has six hits — three of them homers.
“The swing is starting to feel better,” Zunino said. “The results come and go and have been a little more streaky than I like. But my body is starting to feel better and I’m starting to get in a rhythm.”
The Mariners pushed the lead to 3-0 in the sixth inning. Healy led off with a double and scored on Cameron Maybin’s RBI single to right on an awkward swing. Seattle loaded the bases with no outs, but only got one run because Rougned Odor made a brilliant play on Dee Gordon’s ground ball up the middle, fielding it with the backhand, hustling and stepping on second and throwing off balance to first.