Robinson Cano’s three-run homer off reliever Fernando Abad gives Seattle the lead and Edwin Diaz gets three strikeouts in the ninth for his first save.
It was a night of memorable and significant firsts on Tuesday at Safeco Field.
Mariners left fielder Guillermo Heredia notched his first major-league hit as part of a five-run rally in the bottom of the eighth inning, a sharp single into right field that chased Red Sox starter David Price and set the table for the ensuing heroics.
Seattle relief pitcher Edwin Diaz earned his first major-league save in his first appearance as a closer, sealing the win with a strikeout of Boston rookie Andrew Benintendi – in just his first game after getting called up from Class AA Portland earlier in the afternoon.
Robinson Cano’s three-run home run off relief pitcher Fernando Abad completed a furious comeback as the Mariners scored five runs in the eighth to stun Boston 5-4 on Tuesday night at Safeco.
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And the victory allowed Seattle (53-52) to avoid a more ignominious first: A loss that seemed all but assured headed into the frame and would have dropped it below .500 for the first time since June 24.
Instead – and on the back end of consecutive dispiriting defeats – the Mariners clawed their way back to five games behind the Red Sox in the race for AL’s second wild card.
“That’s baseball, you can’t explain it,” Seattle manager Scott Servais said. “As tough as the past couple days have been, it says a lot about the guys we have. You’re sitting on the bench and trying to talk myself into it. Luckily, we got some big hits.”
Price had departed the game to a standing ovation, one of the few times that the sparse weeknight crowd of 25,240 had risen as one. The invading Red Sox horde was tipping its collective hat to a mostly dominant seven innings , while Mariners fans breathed life into their team’s first sustained rally of the night.
Seattle had hardly even threatened against Price for the first seven innings.
Kyle Seager sent a momentary jolt through the crowd with a two-out double in the bottom of the second, but Mike Zunino promptly went down swinging to end the threat.
Leading off the bottom of the sixth, Luis Sardinas fired a sharp line drive back through the box, off Price’s right knee … and directly at third baseman Aaron Hill for an unconventional 1-5-3 putout. It had been that kind of night.
Boston had opened the scoring in the first inning, David Ortiz driving home Dustin Pedroia with a two-out double down the line. The Red Sox got to Seattle starter Wade LeBlanc again in the fourth, with Hanley Ramirez crushing a home run well beyond the left-field wall and Hill scoring Jackie Bradley Jr. with a two-out single.
But for those handful of mistakes, LeBlanc mostly cruised. The lefty (1-0, 4.31 ERA) lasted six innings, scattering five hits, striking out five and walking just a single batter. He kept the Mariners within striking distance.
Zunino led off the bottom of the eighth with a high-arcing solo home run over the left-field wall, cutting Boston’s lead to 4-1. It had the feeling of a cheap consolation prize until Leonys Martin and Sardinas followed with back-to-back singles.
And Heredia got the crowd roaring in earnest with a line drive over leaping first baseman Ramirez.
”I was confident every at-bat, and with that one, when I got that first pitch in, I focused in a little more,” Heredia said through a translator. “It wasn’t the most hard-hit ball, but it fell in for a hit.”
Relief pitcher Matt Barnes struck out Seth Smith for the first out, but Abad – against whom Cano entered the evening 1 for 11 all-time – could only watch helplessly as the Mariners slugger smashed a long drive over his head and into the seats beyond the right-field fence.
Diaz came in less than 24 hours after taking over the closer role from Steve Cishek, who blew a three-run lead against the Cubs on Sunday night and took the loss against the Red Sox on Monday.
“My heart was pumping a little bit when I was running,” Diaz admitted afterward. “I heard everybody screaming. That pumped me up.”
Diaz struck out Bradley with a 98 mph heater but walked Travis Shaw on five pitches, necessitating a brief mound visit from Zunino and Cano.
He took a deep breath, composed himself and closed the game with an appropriate flourish. Diaz struck out Sandy Leon, and blew away Benintendi with a 99 mph fastball to cap a dramatic and unlikely turnaround.