By Bob Dutton The News Tribune
CHICAGO — What’s it say about the Seattle Mariners that they even pushed Saturday’s game into extra innings despite struggling against another left-handed starter?
Oh, that’s just the start. They also committed some late defensive misplays and squandered a great chance to take the lead in the 10th inning.
So, how? Pitching. Felix Hernandez and a lockdown bullpen. (OK, it probably says something about the Chicago White Sox.)
In the end, though, the Mariners’ pitching was enough. It held the White Sox in check until Brad Miller delivered an RBI double that produced a 3-2 victory in 14 innings at U.S. Cellular Field.
“It’s a great group,” Miller said, “and it gives us confidence that, ‘Hey, we just need to get one here. If we can just claw and get one, then we’ll be able to hold them off.’”
Hernandez and five relievers held the White Sox to four hits. Tom Wilhelmsen (1-1) got the victory for pitching the 12th and 13th innings before Fernando Rodney got his league-leading 25th save.
“Four hits in 14 innings,” catcher Mike Zunino said. “They’re something else. I don’t think there’s enough that can be said about that. That’s what keeps us in ballgames all the time.
“I’m happy the bats were able to do enough today because that pitching performance spoke for itself.”
Those bats did just enough … and just in the nick of time. The Mariners stole this game from the White Sox by scoring twice in the ninth inning before winning the game in the 14th.
“Good teams find a way to win games like that,” manager Lloyd McClendon said. “You can say what you want about us, but our guys are gritty. They battled, and we won a game like that.”
Michael Saunders started the winning rally against Ronald Belisario (3-5) with a one-out single to deep second base. Saunders stole second before Miller sent a drive to center that hopped the wall for an RBI double.
It amounted to redemption not only for Miller, who was hitless in five previous at-bats and had an error in the ninth that put the potential winning run on base. But it, in effect, redeemed the entire lineup.
“We were able to tie it up,” Saunders said, “and then the story of the season — the bullpen came in and kept us tied up until the end. Then Rodney came in, and the game was over.”
So, the Mariners (48-39) won for the 14th time in 19 games. Ultimately, what else matters? Still … there were troubling signs in failing to muster any production for eight innings against White Sox lefty Jose Quintana.
Quintana actually exited with runners at first and third with two outs in the eighth. Jake Petricka got the inning’s final out. Quintana yielded just four hits, all singles, while striking out 10.
That followed a suffocating performance Friday by lefty Chris Sale when the White Sox opened the series with a 7-1 victory that snapped the Mariners’ four-game winning streak.
Quintana more than matched Hernandez, who also carried a one-hit shutout into the eighth before stumbling. Conor Gillespie opened the inning with a triple into the right-center gap.
“That one pitch (to Gillespie),” Hernandez said, “I would love to have it back. I missed right down the middle, and he put a good swing on it.”
Dayan Viciedo followed with a drive to right-center for an RBI double and a 1-0 lead.
Then it got worse.
Alejandro De Aza sent a grounder to second, and Robinson Cano tried to get pinch-runner Moises Sierra at third. The Mariners trapped Sierra in a rundown, but he eluded Kyle Seager’s tag.
Sierra was ruled out initially, but a Chicago challenge reversed the call.
That resulted in another run when Tyler Flowers sent a sacrifice fly to left and positioned Hernandez for a loss despite yielding three hits in eight innings.
But the White Sox couldn’t close it out.
Eric Surkamp started the ninth by walking Cano. In came Zach Putnam, who yielded a single to Corey Hart that put the tying runs on base with no outs.
Seager lined out to right, which moved Cano to third. Zunino’s sacrifice fly to center avoided a shutout.
Logan Morrison then squirted a single through the right side that moved Dustin Ackley, who came into the game as a pinch-runner, to third base. Saunders followed with a game-tying single to right field.
Then it was a battle of the bullpens. Advantage: Mariners.