A solo home run, regardless if it travels a vast distance and lands in seemingly unreachable places of the ballpark, is still only worth one run.
A grand slam?
Well, that was worth four runs and a 7-3 victory for the Mariners on Friday night at T-Mobile Park.
For much of the game, Shohei Ohtani’s latest superhuman act on a baseball field — a 463-foot missile into the upper deck of right field of T-Mobile Park in the third inning — was going to be the defining moment of what was trending toward a disappointing Mariners’ loss.
The 20,385 in attendance and the others who will later lie and say they were there to see a prodigious homer that bordered on the impossible and absurd, will also have to mention the 386-foot home run — a grand slam by Mitch Haniger — that broke a 3-3 tie in the bottom of the eighth inning and sent Seattle (47-42) to its 13th win in its last 18 games.
“Ohtani’s having a heck of a season,” manager Scott Servais said. “We made a mistake. And he made us pay. Not many balls were hit where he hit that one. He’s got that kind of power, that kind of talent. But at the end of the day, it’s only worth one. And Mitch’s was worth four. And I liked Hani’s a little bit better, even though it didn’t quite go as far.”
With the two outs and the bases loaded in the bottom of the eighth inning, Haniger worked a 2-0 count against lefty Jose Quintana, refusing to chase out of the zone and patiently waiting for a fastball that he could drive. Quintana gave him that fastball right down the middle and Haniger sent a laser into the Mariners bullpen. It sent the crowd into a frenzy and the Mariners dugout into chaos.
“I’m just looking for a fastball right down the middle,” Haniger said. “You have that leverage in that count at 2-0. I knew he wasn’t going to try to spin something or go back with the changeup that he missed with the first pitch. I’m just trying to get a good pitch to drive, staying on the fastball and I squared it up.”
In his 84th game played this season, an accomplishment considering he missed most of the last two seasons with injuries and recovering from three surgeries, the grand slam was his 20th homer and he circled the bases like it was his first career homer.
“I was just pumped up that I came through,” he said. “On deck, I was just kind of rehearsing what I wanted to get from him. I was looking for a fastball and just seeing myself have success. And then you get that feeling that ‘I’m gonna do it. I’m gonna come through,’ and it happened.”
The storybook start to Ohtani’s 2021 season added another chapter to the stunning highlight reel of towering blasts that seemingly defying typical baseball logic.
His 33rd homer of the season in the third inning off Mariners starter Marco Gonzales won’t be forgotten.
He became just the sixth player in T-Mobile Park history to hit ball into the highest deck in the stadium. MLB Statcast measured the blast at 463 feet, making it the longest homer hit to right field in stadium history.
Per the Mariners records, there have been two balls hit farther.
Chris Carter, then with the Brewers, hit a 465-foot homer to dead center off Wade LeBlanc on August 19, 2016. The second-longest homer belongs to Jose Abreu of the White Sox, who hit a 464-foot bomb to left-center off Ariel Miranda on May 19, 2017.
After retiring Ohtani on a ground ball to second in their first matchup of the game, Gonzales got up quickly in the second at-bat, dropping in a curveball for a called first strike and then getting Ohtani to foul off a slider.
Gonzales tried to get him to chase a curveball in the dirt for a strikeout. But Ohtani remained disciplined. The plan for the 1-2 pitch was to throw an elevated fastball inside, just under Ohtani’s hands. The pitch would serve two purposes, either a swing and miss or weak contact. If not, Gonzales could then go back to a curveball away again.
Instead, the 89-mph fastball didn’t elevate enough, leaking to the inner half of the plate and sitting belt high.
“Just a mistake,” he said flatly.
Ohtani took a vicious cut at the mistake pitch, which players often label “a cookie.”
When the barrel of Ohtani’s black bat impacted the baseball, it sounded like an explosion. The immediate reaction from the crowd was a massive gasp of disbelief followed by an awed roar.
The ball came off the bat at a 31-degree launch angle and just kept climbing to right field. A pair of fans seated about six rows above the edge of the top deck in right field, looking directly into the sun, didn’t realize a projectile was headed their way.
The ball struck the seats about 40 feet to their left. They didn’t even move. The cameraman for the broadcast didn’t pick up the final landing spot because very few balls reach that spot in the stadium.
The homer had a 116.5 mph exit velocity, which is the hardest hit ball ever at T-Mobile Park in the Statcast era.
The blast gave the Angels a 3-0 lead.
And while it was impressive, it was the second longest homer that Ohtani has hit this season. On June 8, playing at Angel Stadium, he crushed a 470-foot blast to deep right-center off Royals lefty Kris Bubic.
To Gonzales’ credit, he shrugged off the homer and came back to strike out Jarred Walsh and retire Phil Gosselin on a fly out. He worked scoreless fourth and fifth innings, including a strikeout swinging of Ohtani.
Seattle got two runs back in the fourth inning on a two-run double from Shed Long Jr.
Gonzales was vying for a quality start (six or more innings pitched, three runs or fewer allowed), but couldn’t quite finish the sixth inning. With two outs and a runner on base, he gave up a single to Jose Iglesias, who had three hits off him on the night.
Reliever J.T. Chargois got Taylor Ward to fly out to deep right to end the inning. Chargois, Anthony Misiewicz, Drew Steckenrider and Kendall Graveman combined to work 3 1/3 scoreless innings allowing one hit.
The Mariners tied the score in the seventh on an RBI single from Ty France.