SEATTLE — The moment Dustin Ackley’s line drive left the bat, Justin Smoak knew he was going to get waved home by third base coach Jeff Datz.
After nearly 4½ hours of baseball and with Seattle running out of players, there really wasn’t another choice.
“I knew off the bat I was trying to score. They had to make a perfect relay throw to get me. He was up the line there and I really had nowhere to go. Had to do what I had to do,” Smoak said.
Detroit catcher Brayan Pena held onto Prince Fielder’s relay throw and absorbed a collision with Smoak at home plate for the final out, and the Tigers outlasted the Mariners 2-1 in 14 innings Wednesday night.
Smoak singled with one out off Joaquin Benoit, and with two outs Ackley doubled into the right-field corner. Datz didn’t hesitate in waving Smoak around with the potential tying run.
Torii Hunter started the relay from the outfield, and Fielder’s throw was up the third base line a bit. Pena, however, caught it in plenty of time and held onto the ball during the collision.
Lying face down in the dirt, Pena held up the ball in his bare hand to show plate umpire Bob Davidson and shook his fist in triumph before teammates helped him up. Because of where Pena caught the relay, there were no options for Smoak other than trying to bull his way through the catcher.
“Just like I did, lower my shoulder and hope for the best,” Smoak said. “I hope he is all right, but that’s part of the game.”
Pena was more than all right, after getting the go-ahead RBI in the top of the 14th and then making the highlight play in the bottom of the inning.
“It was one of those things that, you know, I just need to hold this ball. Take the hit, absorb the hit,” Pena said. “My main goal was to hold onto the baseball. It doesn’t matter where your body is going to go. Just hold onto the baseball.”
Detroit took the lead in the top of the 14th when Pena’s bases-loaded groundout scored pinch-runner Don Kelly. The conclusion came long after starters Felix Hernandez and Max Scherzer pitched gems in a game that included a whopping 40 strikeouts.
Drew Smyly (1-0), the seventh of eight Tigers pitchers, worked the 13th inning for the victory. Benoit earned his first save of the season. Charlie Furbush (0-1) took the loss.
According to the Mariners, it was the second time in major league history that both teams had more than 18 strikeouts. The only other time was June 16, 2001, when the Giants and Padres both struck out 20 times in a 15-inning game.
Detroit batters tied the team record for most strikeouts in a game with 21 — five by Fielder, who was hitless in six at-bats.
“It was a great game. Terrific pitching by both sides,” Detroit manager Jim Leyland said.
Seattle will lament its missed chances in the later innings when it could have avoided the extra baseball. The Mariners had runners in scoring position in the eighth, ninth and 10th and each time failed to come through with a clutch hit. The Mariners finished 1 for 7 with runners in scoring position.
Their lone run came in the seventh when Michael Morse led off with a double and Raul Ibanez followed with a single to tie it at 1.
Hernandez and Scherzer almost became afterthoughts thanks to the long night, but their performances will be tough to top the rest of the season.
Both pitchers finished with 12 strikeouts. Each threw eight strong innings. And neither could get help from their respective offenses to get the victory.
According to the Mariners, with information from the Elias Sports Bureau, the performance by Scherzer and Hernandez was the first time two starters had at least 12 strikeouts and allowed no more than one earned run since Randy Johnson and Mark Langston hooked up in 1992.
How good were Scherzer and Hernandez? Scherzer threw 105 pitches with 75 strikes; Hernandez threw 106 with 76 strikes.
Hernandez retired 12 of his first 13 batters, including six strikeouts. The only one to reach was Miguel Cabrera, who dumped a single in front of Franklin Gutierrez in right-center with two outs in the first.
The 12 strikeouts for Hernandez were the most since his perfect game against Tampa Bay last August when he also struck out 12. It was Hernandez’s ninth career start with 12 or more strikeouts. He was replaced to start the ninth by closer Tom Wilhelmsen. Hernandez gave up four hits and didn’t walk a batter.
“It was a great game. Both sides,” Hernandez said. “Scherzer was pretty good, too. He was changing speeds, he was throwing breaking balls. I was just trying to match it up. I was trying to be aggressive. Against a team like that you have to be in attack mode.”
NOTES: It was the first time since Safeco Field opened in July 1999 that both starting pitchers had 10 or more strikeouts. … RHP Jose Valverde pitched for the Tigers’ extended spring training squad in Florida vs. the Braves. He tossed a scoreless inning with one strikeout. … At Triple-A Tacoma, Carlos Truinfel needed just five innings to hit for the cycle. He was the first Tacoma player to hit for the cycle since Ibanez in 1997.