With one out in the bottom of the third inning Monday, a brave woman in the upper deck behind home plate attempted to resuscitate the sleepy crowd counting sheep inside T-Mobile Park.
“Every-body clap-your-hands!” she shouted, waiting in vain for an obedient applause.
“Every-body clap-your-hands!” she repeated, as if all her audience needed was a firm, prodding push.
Turns out, what it really needed was a 98 mph fastball in the middle of the plate. Trailing Oakland by three runs with one out in the eighth inning, Mariners designated hitter Daniel Vogelbach redirected a Lou Trivino fastball over the wall in dead center to tie the game. The 250-pound tank engine pumped his fist and unleashed a guttural growl as he rounded first base, but his battle cry was lost amidst the T-Mobile buzz.
“I felt like I got that one (off the bat),” Vogelbach said. “I know that the ball doesn’t go sometimes to center, but I felt like I got that one pretty good.”
The ball went, and the crowd wailed. It was an unexpected surge of decibels for a fan base desperately searching for reasons to cheer.
And it wasn’t over yet.
After he walked the bases loaded but escaped the top of the ninth inning unscathed, Mariners reliever Brandon Brennan finally got bit in the 10th. With two outs and nobody on, center fielder Ramon Laureano — who had been 0 for 4 to that point — jumped on an 85 mph changeup and launched a homer over the left-field wall.
After A’s reliever Joakim Soria retired the first two Mariners to begin the bottom of the 10th inning, Vogelbach — who else? — extended the game with a walk. Dee Gordon then replaced him as a pinch runner and swiped second base, before a Domingo Santana double down the left-field line tied the game again. Catcher Omar Narvaez then lined a single to left and Santana came around to score, delivering the Mariners a 6-5 victory.
“The past couple series haven’t really gone our way,” Vogelbach said. “There’s a lot of competitive people in here, and we want to win really badly. It was just a lot of emotion in that game. I’m happy we came out on top.”
The game Monday provided a moment of relief for the struggling Seattle Mariners (21-23). Since topping Kansas City and improving to 13-2 on April 10, the Mariners had lost 21 of their past 28 games. Most recently, they capped an awful 2-8 road trip by being outscored 34-8 in a three-game sweep in Boston.
It’s true, there have not been many reasons to cheer. But Yusei Kikuchi has been an outlier. The 27-year-old rookie logged six-plus innings Monday, allowing five hits and three earned runs while walking two and striking out five. That marked the third consecutive quality start for Kikuchi (2-1), who has surrendered just five earned runs with 20 strikeouts and four walks in his last 22 2/3 innings.
“It took him a little while to get going tonight,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said of Kikuchi. “That’s going to happen some nights. He’s a really good competitor. Even tonight I didn’t think he had maybe his A game, but you look up and it’s six innings and he keeps you right in the ballgame with a chance to win it.”
Still, Kikuchi’s start was marred by three loud mistakes. A’s left fielder Mark Canha, designated hitter Khris Davis and first baseman Matt Olson all saddled the rookie lefty with solo home runs, the last of which chased Kikuchi from the game to lead off the seventh inning. Davis struck again in the eighth, sending another solo homer out to left on the third pitch of reliever Austin Adams’ Mariners career.
Meanwhile, 33-year-old Oakland pitcher Mike Fiers was coming off the second no-hitter of his career in his last start on May 7, when he allowed two walks while striking out six and serving up 131 pitches in a 2-0 victory over Cincinnati.
Any hope for another no-hitter left the park in a hurry Monday.
That’s because, with a 2-2 count to open the game, Mariners leadoff hitter Mitch Haniger turned on a 90 mph fastball and skied a homer over the “Edgar’s” sign and into the upper deck past left field. Fiers rebounded, surrendering just two hits and one earned run while walking three and striking out four in five innings.
But the Mariners rallied late. And, by the end, it looked like everybody was clapping.