Denard Span laced a two-run double into the right-field corner in the bottom of the eighth to score the tying and go-ahead runs and Edwin Diaz came on to get his 26th save as the Mariners rallied for a preposterous 7-6 win over the Red Sox at a rowdy Safeco Field.
It was their worst inning of the season, filled with uncharacteristic mistakes on defense and hard contact off their best starting pitcher.
The Mariners had a three-run lead going into the third inning and when it ended six runs, 11 batters, five hits, two errors and two wild pitches later, they were trailing by three runs.
And none of it mattered in the end.
Red Sox @ M’s, 5:15 p.m., Ch. 13
The team that always believes it will find a way to come back no matter the circumstances did it once again on Friday night in front of 44,459 at Safeco Field.
Pinch-hitter Denard Span laced a two-run double into the right-field corner in the bottom of the eighth to score the tying and go-ahead runs while Edwin Diaz came on to get his 26th save as the Mariners rallied for a preposterous 7-6 win over the Red Sox.
Seattle’s 21st comeback win of the season improved its record to 45-25.
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“What a game,” manager Scott Servais said. “Going from the bottom of the barrel and playing our worst inning of the year … we said after that inning, we’ll find out what we are made of here because you are only down 6-3. It’s not like we were down 6-0.”
Servais didn’t need to make any speeches to his players about the situation. They already were saying it among themselves.
“It’s just the mood and the tone in the dugout,” Span said. “I remember saying to someone on the bench, ‘Hey, that was probably the worst inning I’ve seen in a while and we are still in this game.’ We just kept chipping away and we gave ourselves a chance in the eighth and ninth innings. That’s what you want to do. That’s what good teams do.”
Servais told Span in the seventh inning that he’d pinch-hit for Guillermo Heredia in the eighth with the Red Sox running out power right-hander after power right-hander from the bullpen. Span began the process to get ready.
“I’d just tried to stay as calm as possible and get in my zone,” he said.
With one out in the eighth, Ryon Healy drew a walk from Matt Barnes and was replaced by pinch runner Andrew Romine. With Span watching in the on-deck circle, Ben Gamel singled to left to put the tying run in scoring position and the go-ahead run on first.
Span walked to the plate, impervious to the now roaring crowd at Safeco Field.
“I don’t hear anything,” he said. “It’s tunnel vision. Everything is in slow motion to be honest. As soon as they told me I was pinch hitting, I start visualizing that I was going to come up big for the team. Walking to the plate, it’s that calm, angry type of feeling.”
That feeling led to his typically mature at-bat. He worked a 2-2 count and then sat on a curveball from Barnes, yanking it into the corner. That angry calm turned into a celebratory scream and gesture to the Mariners dugout as he stood on second.
“When I saw Gamel score, that’s when all the aggression came out,” he said. “All the emotions I was trying to keep calm came out.”
To be able to bring in a hitter like that off the bench isn’t something the Mariners have had in past years.
“He’s a huge addition to our ballclub,” Servais said. “He’s got so much experience and he’s able to handle those situations. His ability to slow it down in those moments is not just good for him and our team. It’s good for everyone else to see how to handle it. The quality of at-bat is always going to be there with Denard.”
And the dreadful third inning?
There were no precursors to the impending implosion. The Mariners had just taken a 3-0 lead in the bottom of the second off starter Rick Porcello and seemed in control.
And then James Paxton and the defense fell apart.
This wasn’t just giving up a few runs on some bad plays. No, it was a complete and total failure of execution.
“It was the worst defensive game we’ve probably played this year,” Servais said.
With one out and a runner on first, Jean Segura committed his second error of the game, skipping a throw to first base that Healy couldn’t pick.
Brock Holt singled to drive in Boston’s first run of the game. J.D. Martinez followed with a line drive to right field. Mitch Haniger didn’t get a quick read on the liner and it tipped just off the top of his glove as he tried to make a running grab. It was initially ruled an error but then later changed to a hit. Because it first appeared like Haniger would make the catch, the Red Sox runners had to hold up and didn’t score on the play.
With the bases loaded, it appeared Paxton had gotten a sure out when he shattered the bat of Mitch Moreland. But the contact produced a soft liner just inside the third-base bag. Kyle Seager, who has been outstanding on those types of plays all season, let the ball skip under his glove for a two-run error that tied the game at 3-3.
It only got worse. Paxton fell behind 3-1 to Xander Bogaerts and then gutted a fastball that was redirected over the wall in right field for a three-run homer that made it 6-3.
After giving up a hit to Rafael Devers and walking Eduardo Nunez, Paxton was pulled from the game having thrown 35 pitches in the inning.
“Physically I was fine,” Paxton said. “I didn’t have my best stuff. Not great. I just battled and things didn’t go my way.”
Chasen Bradford came in and finally ended the misery, retiring the next two batters.
But really a three-run deficit with that much time left in the game didn’t seem like much to conquer.
Seattle chipped away at lead. Haniger got a run back with an RBI single in the fifth inning. Mike Zunino hit a solo homer in the seventh.
But the comeback wouldn’t have been possible without the pitching of Rob Whalen, who was called up Thursday from Class AAA Tacoma.
Whalen pitched four shutout innings, allowing just one hit and giving the Mariners a chance to come back and get the win.
“It starts with holding them down,” Servais said. “That’s what allows you to come back in those games.”