The no-nonsense approach to how Mitch Haniger handles most things in life, but specifically all things baseball, was on full display Saturday night at T-Mobile Park. With the game being forced into extra innings, the Seattle outfielder made sure any unnecessary drama and, or more baseball for that matter, immediately ended with him.
Leading off the bottom of the 10th inning and facing Tampa Bay right-hander J.P. Feyereisen with designated base runner J.P. Crawford on second, Haniger ambushed the first pitch he saw — an 85-mph slider over the middle of the plate — sending a line drive into left field.
Crawford, one of the Mariners’ best base runners, got an excellent read on the hard-hit ball, seeing that left fielder Austin Meadows couldn’t make a catch. Crawford raced around third and scored with a headfirst dive. He then jumped to his feet to celebrate Seattle’s 6-5 walkoff victory along with the 14,772 in attendance and then his teammates, who were busy mobbing Haniger.
“I could see he got a little top spin on it,” Crawford said. “And I knew it was gonna be really close. And you know, late in the game, I’m willing to take a risk on that.”
Haniger smirked at his ability to put the game away so quickly. He was trying to drive something to the middle of the field, but was just a little ahead on the slider.
“Yeah, that worked out good,” he said. “Just get it over with and get out of here. Day game tomorrow.”
Seattle now has come-from-behind victories in the first three games of the four-game series with Tampa Bay. Left-hander Marco Gonzales will take the mound on Father’s Day to try and complete the four-game sweep.
The Mariners’ fifth walkoff victory of the season improved their overall record to 37-36 while Tampa fell to 43-29.
“Fun night, wasn’t it?” Seattle manager Scott Servais said. “We took care of business in the 10th. It was a fun win. We’ve got a lot of confidence growing in this clubhouse. Guys are having a good time. The coaching staff is having a good time. And you should, you need to enjoy the wins because we’ve beat a good team over there the last three nights.”
It was fitting that Crawford scored the winning run because he did everything he could to give Seattle a chance to win the game in regulation, including his first career grand slam.
With two outs and the Mariners trailing 2-1 in the second inning, Crawford stepped to plate for the second time against Rays left-handed starter Josh Fleming. Seattle had gotten a run-scoring single from Jake Bauers earlier in the inning and had the bases loaded with no outs. But Jake Fraley and Shed Long both struck out, putting the Mariners in a position to waste a prime scoring opportunity.
The intense competitive nature of Crawford simply wouldn’t allow that to happen.
Crawford fouled off a sinker at the bottom part the strike zone and seemed miffed that he missed hammering the pitch. But when Fleming followed with the same pitch in essentially the same spot, Crawford was ready for it.
“He’s got a really good sinker and a cutter that really cuts,” he said. “It’s not fun. You have to pick one or the other and I picked right.”
He turned on the pitch, sending a low line drive that just got over the wall past right field.
“When J.P. hit that ball, I thought it just had a chance to be a double and it’s going to be on off the wall,” Servais said. “But it just kept carrying and it had all kinds of backspin on it. He was super, super excited. He’s got tons of energy confidence right now.”
MLB Statcast measured the ball with a 109 mph exit velocity with a 16-degree launch angle. Had it not gone over the wall, it might have gone through it.
“I was just hoping the right fielder didn’t catch that one,” he said. “I was just trying to put a good swing on it and trying to get a base hit. I got a good pitch and I was able to put a good swing on it.”
That his first grand slam came while wearing the throwback uniforms honoring the Seattle Steelheads of the Negro leagues and on the Juneteenth holiday wasn’t lost on Crawford, who has been one of the most outspoken players and leaders of the team with the most African American players in baseball.
“It meant a little more to me,” he said. “With everything going on today and being Juneteenth and then wearing those jerseys it was just so special to me.”
Crawford said before the game the team should wear those uniforms more often. But that specific jersey won’t be worn again.
“It’s already in my backpack,” he said. “I’m taking that home and framing that.”
Seattle got a serviceable start from rookie right-hander Logan Gilbert.
He pitched 5 2/3 innings, allowing four runs on six hits with seven strikeouts. At first glance, the numbers seem less than stellar. But upon closer glance, the two runs he gave up in the second inning were a bit of bad luck.
After allowing a leadoff single to Meadows and striking out Manuel Margot, Gilbert threw a 1-0 fastball on the outside corner to the lefty-swinging Joey Wendle. The well-located pitched yielded a suboptimal result as Wendle hit it off the end of his bat, breaking it, but also sending a bouncing ball over the third-base bag past a shifted-over Kyle Seager.
The slow-rolling ball bounced into the left-field corner and allowed Meadows to score from first.
The next batter, Taylor Walls, bunted for a single, which allowed Wendle to advance to third and score on Mike Zunino’s sacrifice fly to center field.
With the lead provided by Crawford’s grand slam at 5-2, Gilbert posted 1-2-3 innings in the third and fourth.
Zunino, who struck out three times in the opening game of the series and didn’t play Friday, served up a reminder of his freakish-hulk strength, smashing a solo homer into the Mariners’ bullpen that made it 5-3. The line-drive homer had a 111-mph exit velocity. It was his 14th long ball of the season, which would be second on the Mariners behind only Haniger’s 16 homers.
Another solo homer off a hanging breaking ball, this time off the bat of Margot in the sixth inning, ended Gilbert’s outing with two outs in the sixth inning.
Anthony Misiewicz got the final out of the sixth while Paul Sewald and JT Chargois posted scoreless innings to keep the lead at 5-4. . But with two outs in the ninth inning, Kendall Graveman left a changeup over the plate that pinch-hitter Brandon Lowe crushed over the wall in center to tie the game.