For once in a long time, the Seattle Mariners got to what they seemed to do so well, so often throughout their scorching first half of the season.
For one, a late rally. It had been a while since the Mariners had one of those.
But moreso their ability to manufacture a run. As Dee Gordon’s production tailed off that became less of a regular occurrence.
Then Mitch Haniger led off with a walk against hard-throwing Dellin Betances in the bottom of the eighth inning, stole second base with a fancy slide, reached third on Jean Segura’s sacrifice bunt and scored when he took off on Robinson Cano’s ground ball to second base with another head-first slide to just beat the tag at the plate.
That was all the Mariners needed. Heck, it’s all the Mariners really ever need with the way this back-end of their bullpen works.It just doesn’t happen often enough.
Edwin Diaz closed out the ninth for his 54th save of the season and the Mariners avoided the New York Yankees season sweep with a 3-2 victory on Sunday at Safeco Field.
That’s Diaz’s 27th one-run save in 30 chances this year. Sunday extended the 24-year-old’s single-season record for one-run saves in a season.
“That’s too many,” Servais laughed. “He continues to just go after guys.”
But Diaz had help – from Haniger.
He charged and laid out, full extension, for an incredible diving catch with Andrew McCutchen at first base for the final out of the game.
Yeah, Haniger had the dirtiest jersey after the game with how much he was on his stomach those final two frames.
“Mitch Haniger took over the last inning,” Servais said. “He’s a good all-around player. We get all excited about his bat and the power and the quality at-bats, but he can defend, certainly saw that, he can throw, he runs the bases well.
“He’s a heck of a player.”
This win just didn’t do a whole lot of good in the standings, not with the Oakland Athletics never losing. The Mariners (79-64) now have more wins than they had all of last year with 19 games to go, but trail the A’s by 7½ games for the American League’s final wild card.
The Yankees had won each of the previous five meetings with the Mariners this season before Seattle took Sunday’s game.
Diaz is now alone for the fifth-most saves in a single season in MLB history. Only John Smoltz (2002), Eric Gagne (2003), Bobby Thigpen (1990) and Francisco Rodriguez (2008) have ever had more saves in a season than Diaz this year.
But how about Haniger? Earlier in the game he should have had what would be tied for the most outfield assists in the American League with a rope of a throw to third base, but the runner was called safe. He scored that go-ahead run after the stolen base and then the sweeping slide home, he drew a leadoff walk to start the inning (one of the few Mariners batters who draw walks this year).
And he did all that without getting a hit.
“I take pride in every facet of the game,” Haniger said. “Defense, offense, baserunning, everything. It’s something that I was lucky enough to learn from some good coaches growing up in high school and college and I was taught the game the right way.”
It took one inning for the Mariners struggling offense to score as many runs as they had the entire series before Sunday, and as many hits as all of Saturday night’s loss.
Segura was robbed of a single on a leaping snare from Adeiny Hecharvarria on a line drive. But Cano, Nelson Cruz, Ryon Healy and Cameron Maybin followed with consecutive two-out singles with Healy and Maybin driving in runs for a 2-1 Mariners lead.
That top of the first inning wasn’t nearly as pretty as this sunny Seattle Sunday for the Mariners. The Yankees scored because of miscommunication between Segura and Maybin chasing a ball into left field. Segura lunged for it over his shoulder and the ball dropped between them for a “double” for Giancarlo Stanton.
Miguel Andujar hit a legitimate double to the left-field wall the next batter to score him.
That was Stanton’s first and only hit of the series. Last year’s National League MVP with the Marlins was 1-for-12 these three games with six strikeouts.
And Stanton, with 33 home runs this year, had the bases loaded for him in the fourth inning after the Yankees had three consecutive hits that frame off of Erasmo Ramirez. Andrew McCutchen drew a bases-loaded walk the batter before to help the Yankees tie it up, 2-2 (one pitch after a ball that the MLB tracker showed should have been strike three).
Ramirez got Stanton to ground out to Cano at second base to end the threat. Ramirez tossed a 1-2-3 fifth inning thanks to a double play and was out after that on 85 pitches. He allowed six mostly soft hits with two walks and four strikeouts in five innings.
Ramirez has allowed two earned runs or fewer in five of his six starts since coming off of the disabled list.
“He hung in there,” Servais said. “He gave us a chance, even when it wasn’t his best or sharpest stuff today.”
And the Yankees’ two runs to that point were off a Mariners misplay and a bases-loaded walk.
Meanwhile, the Mariners hardly threatened again after that first frame, scattering three hits over the next six innings.
Not like the Yankees. Mariners relievers were stressed about all game, with Zach Duke stranding the go-ahead run at third base after Shawn Armstrong allowed a one-out double in the sixth inning. And Alex Colome walked a batter and tossed two wild pitches before stranding the runner at third when Gordon Beckham handled a hard ground ball for the final out of the eighth.
But manufacture a run. The Mariners didn’t have a hit in that go-ahead bottom of the eighth inning, but scored anyway.
“Just play the game,” Haniger said. “Jean did a great job moving me over with the bunt and then a contact play with a runner on third with one out and luckily I got in.”
Last year the Mariners won 78 games and finished seven games back of the Twins for the final wild card after a sluggish finish. Now they have 79 games, but are even farther back for the wild card.
Servais tried to not take a lot of meaning out of that.
“We’ve had some highs and we’ve had some lows this season,” Servais said. “The key is to go out and show up every day, no matter who is in the lineup. We will shift it around a little bit and keep some guys fresh and give newer guys a chance to play a little bit. Hopefully it works to our advantage.”