ANAHEIM, Calif. — The speedy annoyance of the baseball mosquito that is Sam Haggerty ignited the fuse. The true nature of another losing team going nowhere slowly in Anaheim revealed itself in the mistake-filled frenzy that followed.
And as the cheers of “Let’s go Mariners! Let’s go Mariners!” overtook the smattering of deserved boos for the home team at Angel Stadium, the pensive frustration on manager Scott Servais’ face for eight innings was replaced by a smirk of success.
The Mariners’ 6-2 victory over the Angels on Monday night offered everything that Servais believes makes this team special — outstanding starting pitching, lockdown bullpen, timely hitting and an unshakable belief in being able to find ways to win, no matter how absurd.
“We caught a few breaks and you have to take advantage of them,” he said. “We put ourselves in a position by our pitching and how we played to keep the game right there and then create some havoc later on. So that’s, I guess, ‘chaos ball,’ as they like to say, at it’s finest.”
It started with Haggerty in the ninth inning. Having forced the Mariners into playing him on a near daily basis, the speedy switch-hitter stepped to the plate in the ninth inning of a 2-2 game.
“In the dugout, Skip said, ‘Hey, Sam go make something happen,'” Julio Rodriguez said.
With one out, Haggerty bounced a ball through the left side for a single off lefty Aaron Loup.
His presence on the bases put immediate pressure on Loup and on catcher Max Stassi.
“I’m looking for any way to get to second whether it’s steal or a ball in the dirt or anything,” Haggerty said. “Stassi gave me an opportunity.”
Indeed, Loup fired a breaking ball in the dirt to pinch-hitter Carlos Santana. Stassi blocked it but was expecting Haggerty to break for second and fired hurriedly to second base.
Small problem for the Angels, Haggerty held up on going. But when Stassi’s throw went into the outfield, he graciously took second base. Within seconds of arriving at second base, he planned to take third on the next pitch from Loup.
“The chaos of the throwaway, Loup is relatively slow to the plate, there’s one out and there’s a right-handed hitter at the plate, everything kind of aligned for third base to get attempted. I successfully got that and then the chaos happened.”
Well the chaos had already started, but it went next level.
Santana walked on just three balls thrown to him. Home plate umpire Laz Diaz lost track of the count and was convinced that Santana had four balls thrown to him. He only had three.
“After the fourth pitch, Santana asked if he was 3-1: ‘I said, no it’s 2-2,'” Diaz told a pool reporter. “Then I started thinking, maybe it is 3-1, because I forgot I called that first pitch a strike. There were so many pitches going on, I lost the count on that first pitch. I knew I called a strike on the steal, and that’s the only one I remembered. I couldn’t remember the one before that.”
Diaz wore the mistake.
“Yeah. I messed that one up,” he said. “That at-bat, wild pitch, throw to second base, and the next one is a steal play. So much chaos.”
Santana was replaced by pinch runner Dylan Moore with Rodriguez coming to the plate. Angels interim manager Phil Nevin didn’t have a right-hander up in the bullpen and stayed with the lefty Loup.
Rodriguez worked a 2-0 count and ripped a screaming line drive to second baseman Luis Rengifo. The ball, which had a 107.5 mph exit velocity, bounced off Rengifo’s glove. For a moment all parties were stunned at what transpired. Well, maybe not Haggerty. He knew exactly what he wanted to do.
“I froze to not get doubled up, but as I saw the ball drop, my first thought was keep us in the inning and stop the double play,” Haggerty said. “So I tried to get a throw home. They threw home, so now I’m trying to stay in the rundown to get D-Mo to third and Julio to second and give us another chance.”
Haggerty didn’t stay in the rundown for long. After Stassi caught the throw to home, he moved up the line and threw to third, Haggerty turned to go back to home.
“I turned and I didn’t see anybody at home plate,” he said. “And I went for it.”
Indeed, Loup stumbled off the mound and Walsh stayed at first momentarily thinking Rengifo might turn the double play.
Haggerty raced home for the go-ahead run.
From there, the chaos continued with action that will soon be set to Benny Hill’s “Yakety Sax.” The Mariners scored two more runs on ground balls to third base. Stassi dropped the ball on a tag of Moore at the plate and third baseman Jose Rojas stumbled on Mitch Haniger’s ground ball to third and had to throw to first, allowing Rodriguez to score.
Seattle had scored three runs and the only time the ball left the infield was on Stassi’s bad throw.
J.P. Crawford’s RBI single to center punctuated the four-run inning and ended Loup’s outing.
“Never seen that, but we all know that baseball is like that,” Rodriguez said. “We always see something new every day. It was fun. It was fun. I’m happy that everything worked out our way. It was crazy to see how many things happened.”
Crazy but also somewhat calculated.
“We got fortunate,” Servais said. “We put pressure on them. We forced them to make plays, and they weren’t able to make them and allowed us to get the W.”
The ninth inning overshadowed a solid starting pitching duel between aces Luis Castillo and Shohei Ohtani.
Their pitching lines were strikingly similar.
Castillo pitched six innings, allowing two runs on his hits with a walk and nine strikeouts in 109 pitches.
Ohtani pitched six innings, allowing two runs on seven hits with a walk and eight strikeouts on 97 pitches.
But really Castillo should’ve only allowed one run in his outing.
After Jesse Winker jumped on a hanging 3-2 slider from Ohtani, sending a blast into over right field for a solo homer and a 1-0 lead in the first inning, the Angels got the run back on a solo “homer” from Rengifo.
Why the quote marks?
Well, Rengifo’s deep fly ball to right-center should’ve been caught by Rodriguez or Haniger. But since both players tried to make leaping grabs on it, neither was able to finish the play. Rodriguez, who could be heard yelling, “I got it! I got it!” had the ball in his glove momentarily. But when they collided on the play, Haniger’s glove hit Rodriguez’s glove hard enough to knock the ball out and over the yellow line on the wall that made it a home run.
It was ruled a double on the field, but a replay review overturned the call.
Two innings later, the Mariners had a home run on the field taken away by a replay review.
After falling behind 0-2 and fouling off two pitches, Rodriguez stayed on 99 mph fastball, hitting a fly ball to the right-field corner. The ball appeared to disappear behind the foul pole and was called a home run on the field by first base umpire Brian O’Nora. However, Nevin asked for a review of the play, which was granted by Diaz. After a replay review, it was ruled a foul ball. The run was taken off the board and Rodriguez struck out on the next pitch — a nasty slider away. Instead of a 2-1 lead for Seattle, the score remained 1-1.
Fair or foul?
“I know we all know the right answer,” Rodriguez said. “But at the end of the day, we got the win. And that’s all that matters.”
But the Mariners would still get a run in the inning. Winker blooped in a two-out single and Haniger worked a walk to move him into scoring position. Crawford laced a single to center to score Winker, who was running on the 3-2 pitch to make it 2-1.