Seattle Mariners’ Nelson Cruz, left, is greeted by teammates including Leonys Martin (12) and Guillermo Heredia (5) after Cruz hit a walk-off single in the ninth inning to score Mariners’ Mike Freeman and give the Mariners a 8-7 win over the Texas Rangers, Sunday, April 16, 2017, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

Seattle Mariners’ Nelson Cruz, left, is greeted by teammates including Leonys Martin (12) and Guillermo Heredia (5) after Cruz hit a walk-off single in the ninth inning to score Mariners’ Mike Freeman and give the Mariners a 8-7 win over the Texas Rangers, Sunday, April 16, 2017, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

Cruz’s single caps 2-run rally in 9th as Mariners top Rangers

By Todd Milles

The News Tribune

SEATTLE — After watching from the Mariners’ dugout as the Texas Rangers knocked the baseball to all corners of Safeco Field — and twice, out of it — Jarrod Dyson figured his time was coming.

On his day off, he began stretching his legs in the sixth inning.

By the ninth inning, his entire body was warmed up. It was go time.

Everyone around the big leagues knows about Dyson’s speed: He is as fast as any outfielder in baseball, and he can single-handedly impact a game, especially late.

On Sunday, Dyson started the ninth-inning rally that Nelson Cruz finished with a walkoff RBI infield single and Seattle tripped up Texas, 8-7, in front of 19,678 fans at Safeco Field.

With the come-from-behind win, the Mariners swept a series from the defending AL West champions for the first time since 2015.

“A lot went into today’s win,” said Seattle manager Scott Servais, who watched the exciting conclusion from the clubhouse after he was ejected at the end of the sixth inning. “It was a big one for us.”

Indeed, it was. And this did not feel like an ordinary game. It was full of tension, urgency, anger — and, ultimately, determination not to lose more ground in the difficult AL West.

Starting pitcher Hisashi Iwakuma was gone after the third inning, his shortest career home start. He also lasted just three innings in a Safeco Field start in 2013 against the Boston Red Sox

It was just the sixth time Iwakuma has failed to last more than three innings in a major-league start. Oddly enough, the last time it happened was against this same Rangers’ squad — Aug. 29 in Arlington, Texas.

Pitching on seven days rest, Iwakuma gave up a three-run home run to former Mariners outfielder Sin-Soo Choo in the second inning, then a two-run double to Choo an inning later.

When Iwakuma departed after 52 pitches, Seattle trailed, 6-1.

But the Mariners quickly got back into the game behind the bustling power bat of rookie Mitch Haniger, whom they acquired in an offseason trade with Arizona.

Haniger blasted a three-run shot off Cole Hamels to left field in the third inning, and suddenly it was 6-4.

Leading off the sixth, Guillermo Heredia tied the game 7-7 with a solo blast to left field.

Haniger robbed Joey Gallo of a two-run home in the eighth inning, but the Rangers took an 8-7 lead on Nomar Mazara’s towering shot off Seattle closer Edwin Diaz to kick off the ninth.

Power is impactful. But so is speed.

Dyson got on base with an infield single to start the ninth for the Mariners. Then his speed took over.

“Speed puts pressure on the whole defense, along with the pitcher, because everyone is paying attention, and wondering when you are going (to steal),” Dyson said. “We are down one (run), and I am on base with no outs? I am looking to go — and go early.”

He did, stealing second off Rangers closer Sam Dyson. It was Jarrod Dyson’s 16th consecutive stolen base, dating back to last season.

Leonys Martin got down a bunt in between third baseman Gallo and the Texas reliever along the left side for an infield single, and suddenly the Mariners were in business. Mike Freeman, pinch-hitting for Heredia, walked and Haniger followed with bases-loaded walk to tie the game 7-7.

“Dyson has got a good sinker, but … that one started to go low,” Haniger said. “I just shut it down to take (the pitch).”

And two batters later, Cruz hit a hard grounder that Elvis Andrus barely got his glove on at shortstop. Freeman scored from third with the winning run.

Afterward, Servais said he felt a little more fire than usual during his sixth-inning encounter with first-base umpire C.B. Bucknor, who signaled a foul ball on a Martin grounder.

Servais went nose-to-nose with Bucknor, and was ejected for the second time as the Seattle manager.

“It has been a rough start to our season. And we are starting to get some momentum going,” Servais said. “I talked to the players about dialing up the intensity — and the coaches, and myself — because these games are all important.”

Said Jarrod Dyson: “When (Servais) got tossed, it kind of fired everyone up.”

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