By Ryan Divish The News Tribune
HOUSTON — To paraphrase the fictional announcer Harry Doyle in the movie “Major League:”
The Seattle Mariners got one hit? One hit!?
Yes, they only registered one notch in the hit column on Saturday night at hitter-friendly Minute Maid Park.
But somehow, some way Seattle found a way to pick up a 4-2 win over the Houston Astros.
“It’s a very unique set of circumstances,” Mariners manager Eric Wedge said.
Unique might be a nice way of putting it, considering the Mariners were no-hit for six innings and still managed to score two runs.
Astros manager Bo Porter wasn’t quite as diplomatic.
“It was probably the strangest game I’ve been involved in since little league to the big leagues,” he said.
Well, since 1916, the only other time a team scored four runs or more while getting one hit or less was on July 1, 1990, when the White Sox beat the Yankees 4-0 at Comiskey Park, despite Andy Hawkins tossing eight no-hit innings.
“What a crazy game,” Mariners closer Tom Wilhelmsen said of Saturday’s victory. “Those are games that winning ball clubs win. And we’re on our way.”
It was just the third time in the club history the Mariners managed to win a game while registering one hit. The other two times came on April 27, 2002, against the New York Yankees and on Aug. 15, 1989 against the Rangers.
But this win might be the oddest of the three.
Oft-maligned one-time Seattle starter Erik Bedard looked masterful for the Astros against his former team. He looked almost like the pitcher the Mariners hoped to get when they gave up future all-stars Adam Jones and Chris Tillman and three other players to acquire him in a trade with the Orioles before the 2008 season.
Bedard dominated the first five innings. In the first four innings, he didn’t allow a single base runner, striking out seven. In the fifth, his bid for a perfect game ended when he walked Kendrys Morales to start the inning. But it mattered little as he rang up two more of his 10 strikeouts in the game to keep his no-hit bid alive.
“I’ve seen him really good in the past,” Wedge said. “Probably overall, that’s as good as I’ve seen him.”
Things fell apart for Bedard in the sixth inning. Houston had given him a 2-0 lead against Mariners starter Hisashi Iwakuma, and Bedard gave the runs right back without allowing a hit.
Michael Saunders and Brad Miller drew back-to-back one-out walks and then moved up a base on a passed ball from catcher Jason Castro. Nick Franklin scored Saunders with a sacrifice fly to center that also allowed Miller to tag up and advance to third base. With two outs, Castro mishandled another Bedard pitch, this one to Raul Ibanez. The ball squirted away, allowing Miller to sprint home.
The score was tied at 2-2 and Bedard still hadn’t allowed a hit. He walked Ibanez and then got Kendrys Morales to line out to end the inning.
“To score two runs on no hits and no errors, I don’t remember the last time that happened,” Saunders said.
Bedard started the seventh, but he didn’t make it out of the inning. He got one out and then walked Justin Smoak.
Porter came out to talk Bedard. The lefty handed the ball over.
“I asked him, ‘are you sure?’ and he said, ‘I’m done,’” Porter recounted.
It was Bedard’s 109th pitch of the game. He has no regrets.
“I’ve had three shoulder surgeries,” Bedard said. “I’m not going over 110 (pitches). I’d rather pitch a couple more years than face another batter.”
He was replaced by Jose Cisnero. The hard-throwing righty struck out pinch-hitter Dustin Ackley, but walked Mike Zunino after a nice seven-pitch battle.
“I’m just trying to grind out the at-bat and continue have good plate appearances and do what I can,” Zunino said. “I could have very easily been chasing bad pitches. I just had to stay disciplined and luckily that happened and I was able to get that walk.”
Moments later, the Mariners finally got their first hit. Facing Saunders, Cisnero threw two breaking balls out of the zone to start. Up 2-0, Saunders was looking for one thing only — a fastball.
“I just kind of sat (on a) dead-red heater and put a good swing on it,” Saunders said.
That good swing resulted in a towering fly ball to center field. Astros center fielder Brandon Barnes raced back on the ball, tracking it. But he stumbled on Tal’s Hill near the center field wall. The ball dropped in, scoring Smoak and Zunino to give the Mariners a 4-2 lead. Saunders would have had a triple, but stumbled after rounding second.
“That was the longest double I’ve ever had,” he said. “I definitely put a good swing on it. I guess if the hill isn’t out there, maybe he runs it down. Or if the hill isn’t out there, maybe it’s a home run. I don’t know. But it fell, we won and that’s all that matters.”
The offensive outburst gave starter Hisashi Iwakuma a chance to get the win. After working out of jams most of the game, he pitched a 1-2-3 seventh inning. He threw seven innings, giving up two runs on seven hits with two walks and seven strikeouts.
“It was a tough game today,” Iwakuma said through translator Antony Suzuki. “They put a lot of pressure on me until the very end. But I was able to stay within myself and made pitches when I needed to, being able to execute pitches in tough situations that got me out of a jam, and that big hit from Michael Saunders. That was a game-changer right there.”
Charlie Furbush worked a dominant eighth inning to set up Wilhelmsen for the ninth inning save.
The Mariners got a scare when Justin Maxwell scalded a ball into the right-center gap to start the inning. It looked like a sure double. But Saunders sprinted from his spot in right field, stretched out made a running grab.
Wilhelmsen was sensing disaster.
“That’s the play of the day,” Wilhelmsen said. “Well, maybe his double as well. He closed down on that sucker so fast. That ball was smoked. I was like ‘Holy Cow.’ He was full extension, incredible catch. Huge.”
Saunders wasn’t sure he would get to it.
“Off the bat I thought it was in the gap,” he said. “Being a righty, the ball kind of tailed back toward me a little bit and I was able to run it down.”
Wilhelmsen closed out the game three batters later to notch his 21st save.