PHOENIX — The hard-throwing youngster and former Rule 5 draft pick, who has spent much of the season riding the shuttle back and forth between Tacoma and Seattle — a distance that feels farther in baseball metaphor than physical distance — somehow gave them a do-over in extra innings.
The veteran third baseman, who has never tasted the postseason in his 11-year MLB career spent entirely in Seattle and might not return next year for No. 12, made sure the second chance at an extra-innings win and a series sweep, on a day when there was a chance to gain ground in the wild-card race, didn’t get wasted.
Yohan Ramirez pitched the Mariners out of a looming loss in the bottom of the 10th, despite Arizona having a runner on third with one out. And Kyle Seager put the Mariners ahead for good, ripping a two-run double down the right-field line, which ignited a rout-producing seven-run top of the 11th inning and a 10-4 victory Sunday and three-game sweep of the Diamondbacks, who looked as bad as their 45-93 record.
“I keep saying it’s hard to sweep people and certainly we continue to prove that is difficult, but heck of an effort by our guys,” manager Scott Servais said. “This team is so much fun. And if you can’t enjoy watching us play and how we go about it, knowing that every game is going to come right down at the end, shame on you. You’re not a baseball fan. It doesn’t get a whole lot better certainly with where we’re at this point in the season.”
It was a big day for the Mariners’ quest to end the longest current postseason drought in professional sports, dating back to 2001. While they improved to 75-62 with their fifth consecutive victory, three of the four teams they are competing with for the two wild-card spots lost. The Yankees, who hold the first wild-card spot, lost to Baltimore 8-7 to fall to 78-58. New York somehow lost a three-game series to the worst team in baseball. The Red Sox, who came into the day holding the second wild-card spot, were drubbed 11-5 by Cleveland. At 79-60, Boston sits a half-game behind the Yankees.
The Mariners moved ahead of the A’s (74-63), who were shut out by the streaking Blue Jays 8-0. Seattle trails the Red Sox by three games and the Yankees by 3.5 games. Like Oakland, Toronto (73-62) sits a game back of the Mariners.
Could there be another race to add into the mix? With a 4-3 loss to the Padres, Houston (79-57) sits 4.5 games ahead of the Mariners. The two teams open a three-game series at Minute Maid Park on Monday.
Also starting Monday, the Blue Jays and Yankees open a huge four-game series at Yankee Stadium. The Red Sox host the AL East-leading Rays for three games and the A’s open a four-game series against the AL Central-leading White Sox at home.
Even Servais was scoreboard watching before the game and during it.
“Yeah, typically I say I don’t look at those things,” he said. “I’m gonna tell you: I’m looking at those things. This is a special team. And we need a little help along the way. You need some other teams to stub their toe, but we can only control so much, and that’s what we do on the field. We knew before the game started what the situation was today, our players knew it, but you’ve still got to go out and play.”
While the victory adds some spice to the delicious drama of September baseball, it’s impossible to not consider how close the Mariners were to losing the game. They were 90 feet from defeat to be exact.
After failing to score a run in the top of the 10th with Jarred Kelenic getting thrown out at third on Dylan Moore’s sac-bunt attempt and Moore later getting thrown out at second on a stolen-base attempt, the Mariners watched as Arizona executed early in the bottom of the 10th.
A sac bunt from Jack McCarthy moved Andrew Young, the designated runner to start the inning, to third base. Desperate for a strikeout, Ramirez got one on pinch-hitter Christian Walker with an assortment of nasty sliders and then got Josh Rojas, the Diamonbacks’ best hitter, to pop out to J.P. Crawford for the third out.
“Out of nowhere here, he (Ramirez) has stepped up over the last three weeks or so, pitching in these critical spots late in games,” Servais said. “And he’s the right guy there. You need a strikeout there in the 10th inning in some way to get through that inning. He’s got a nasty slider and he really executed it today.”
Ramirez got his first MLB win in relief.
“I tried to stay calm and not allow the game to speed up on me,” Ramirez said through third-base coach Manny Acta. “And after that, just attack hitters and make sure that I control whatever I was able to control. For the most part, it was controlling my emotions.”
But the hyperactive Ramirez bounded off the mound after throwing a nasty first-pitch slider to Walker to start the at-bat.
“I was trying to enjoy the game while not allowing the adrenaline to go way too high on me,” he said. “That way I was able to kind of enjoy what I was doing without just getting out of the mindset that I needed to be at.”
In the top of the 11th facing right-hander Taylor Clarke, Mitch Haniger and Ty France took walks to load the bases for Seager. Clarke had thrown just two strikes in his first 14 pitches. His third strike came to Seager on a 2-0 count and it was ripped down the right-field line. Arizona went to right-hander Sean Poppen, who was greeted by back-to-back RBI singles from Abraham Toro and Tom Murphy. Later with two outs, pinch hitter Jake Bauers roped a two-run double to right that made it 10-4.
The Mariners got another solid start from Chris Flexen in a season filled with them. He pitched six innings, allowing three runs on four hits with two walks and four strikeouts.
He held the Diamondbacks scoreless for the first five innings, allowing just one hit — Josh Van Meter’s leadoff bunt single against the shift to start the second inning. After a one-out walk later in the second inning, Flexen retired the next 11 batters he faced.
Given a 2-0 lead, Flexen gave up an RBI single to Paven Smith and a two-run homer to David Peralta.
“I didn’t feel like I was executing too well throughout the game,” Flexen said. “I really ran into some big trouble there in the sixth and missed spots quite often and they were able to get to them.”
Seattle tied the game in the seventh and the bullpen didn’t allow a run from the seventh through the 10th inning. Erik Swanson (seventh), Paul Sewald (eighth), Drew Steckenrider (ninth) and Ramirez all worked scoreless frames.