Mike Zunino ended an extra-inning marathon with one vicious swing, yanking a walkoff homer in the bottom of the 12th inning to give the Mariners a 4-3 victory over the Twins on Saturday night at Safeco Field.
As the sky turned into the black of night and the temperature at Safeco Field fell from comfortable to crisp with an annoying and chilling breeze, Mike Zunino watched ball after ball seemingly crushed off his teammates’ bats rocket in the air to center field. But what seemed like sure home runs off the bat, giving a crowd of 23,986 screaming hope for runs and victory, only died in the glove of the opposing center fielder on the warning track.
But what about a well-struck ball to left field off the bat of the freakishly strong Zunino?
Walk-off homer and a 4-3 win for the Mariners.
Minnesota @ Mariners, 1:10 p.m., ROOT Sports
With two outs in the bottom of the 12th and the Mariners giving every indication that they might not score again on Saturday night, Zunino ended the extra-inning marathon vs. the Twins with one vicious swing. Reliever Matt Magill left a 2-2 slider over the middle of the plate. Zunino, who had already struck out three times in the game, didn’t miss this gift, yanking a solo home so hard to left that the ball was lodged into the sign in Edgar’s Cantina, breaking some of the fixtures in it..
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“I tried to hit smart one time since everyone was going to center,” Zunino joked. “I wasn’t doing anything there but trying to barrel it up and I was finally able to get a pitch I could handle.”
It was Zunino’s eighth homer of the season and his second career walk-off homer. The Mariners have four walk-off wins and are 5-0 in extra innings games this season. Seattle has now won seven of its last games and improved to 31-20 on the season.
“It’s really remarkable, the run we’ve been on and how we’ve done it,” Servais said. “Tremendous effort from our pitching staff tonight. They all had a hand in it. Our pitching is what has kept us going and put us in the streak we are in right now. It’s kept us in ballgames and somehow we figure out how to get a hit late in the game and we did it again tonight.”
It’s a victory that came with a cost. Reliever Nick Vincent was forced out of the game in the middle of an at-bat against Twins slugger Miguel Sano in the eighth inning. With two outs and Seattle up 3-2, Vincent threw a pitch and immediately signaled to the dugout for the trainer.
He exited the game and left-hander James Pazos came in. Pazos couldn’t hold the lead, giving up a two-out run-scoring single to Eddie Rosario.
The Mariners later announced Vincent suffered a right groin strain.
Things only got worse for Seattle in the bottom of the eighth when Jean Segura left the game injured. After leading off the inning with a single, Segura was kicked in the head as he slid into second base by shortstop Gregorio Petit on a double-play turn.
“We’ll know more (Sunday) once we have more tests on those guys,” Servais said. “We’ll keep our fingers crossed.”
Servais expected Segura to undergo concussion protocol before being cleared. Meanwhile in Las Vegas, reliever Dan Altavilla was removed from Class AAA Tacoma’s game during warmups, presumably to be available to join the team if Vincent goes on the disabled list.
For the first five innings, Seattle starter Wade LeBlanc kept the Twins off balance with his “overpowering” 87-mph fastball, a diving changeup and pinpoint location. He was efficient and in rhythm, allowing just one hit over the first five innings. There was a spot of trouble in the third when he issued a two-out walk to Brian Dozier and allowed his first hit — a single to Max Kepler.
It looked like the Twins would get a run when Sano hit a sinking line drive into left-center. But left fielder Ben Gamel paid no attention to his personal safety or the presence of center fielder Guillermo Heredia. Gamel went into a full layout and made a diving grab to end the inning and the threat.
The Twins finally got to LeBlanc in the sixth on run-scoring doubles from Kepler and Rosario. But LeBlanc kept the damage to just the two runs, finishing the sixth and his outing with two runs allowed on four hits with no walks and four strikeouts.
The Mariners didn’t fare much better against Twins starter Jake Odorizzi. He carved up Seattle for the first five innings, giving up just four hits — two by Gamel — without allowing a run.
But like the Twins, the Mariners also broke through in the sixth. Segura smashed a leadoff homer into the second level of Edgar’s Cantina to cut the lead in half at 2-1.
Seattle took the lead three batters later. With one out and Mitch Haniger on first, Nelson Cruz, who came into the game with just two hits in his previous 17 at-bats, smashed a line drive to deep right-center. The ball was hit hard enough, the only question was if it would stay high enough to get over the wall, hit the wall or let Twins acrobatic center fielder Byron Buxton add to his highlight reel of catches. The laser carried just out of the reach of the leaping Buxton, who slammed into the wall and fell onto the warning track. Buxton stayed on the ground for a while before eventually getting up, talking with a trainer and leaving the game.
For Cruz, it was his eighth homer of the year and a 3-2 lead for the Mariners.
“It was great to see Nelson Cruz get a big hit and drive one out of the ballpark,” Servais said. “We hadn’t seen that in a while so hopefully he can relax and get it going.”
The Mariners got brilliant relief work. In his fourth outing in five games, closer Edwin Diaz worked a scoreless ninth.
Juan Nicasio was even better, pitching two scoreless innings, striking out five of the six batters he faced. Chasen Bradford (4-0) got the win after pitching a scoreless 12th inning.