SEATTLE — On a strange night at Safeco Field, it was only fitting that the Mariners breakthrough would finally come against one best relievers in the history of baseball.
After being shut out for the previous seven innings, the Mariners scratched out a run against Mariano Rivera in the
12th inning to beat the New York Yankees 5-4 in front of 37,354 at Safeco Field. The crowd was the second largest of the season for Seattle behind opening day, though at least four of those fans were gone having been arrested for running onto the field.
After Chone Figgins grounded out to l
ead off the 12th inning, Justin Smoak started the winning rally with a soft single that dropped in front of left fielder Brett Gardner. Jack Cust followed with a double to give Seattle runners on second and third, and after an intentional walk to Franklin Gutierrez, Adam Kennedy hit a bloop single to center field that scored pinch runner Luis Rodriquez.
“(Rivera) is the best of time, you know you’re going to have to fight for it and score a run the way we scored a run,” Mariners manager Eric Wedge said.
Kennedy said the key to getting a hit off Rivera and his famed cutter is simply surviving.
“You’re just trying to survive somehow,” he said. “You know what’s coming. That’s my second hit off him ever, and the other one looked just the same. It’s never easy.”
The win puts Seattle alone in second place in the AL West at 26-25, half a game behind Texas. It is also the first time the Mariners have been over .500 since they were 2-1 on April 3.
David Pauley got the win with two scoreless inning of relief to improve to 4-0, and has now pitched 15 straight shutout innings. That followed three shutout innings by Aaron Laffey, Jamey Wright and Brandon League.
“Our bullpen was special tonight,” Wedge said.
Despite pitching Friday and throwing two more innings Saturday, Pauley said he could have kept pitching if the game had gone another inning.
“I felt good,” he said. “If I had to go another one, I’d have gone another one. Arm feels good, I feel healthy. That’s all you can really ask for I guess. . . If it was my job to go back out there for another inning, I’d go back out there for another inning.”
And if beating Rivera and witnessing a handful of drunken fans getting tackled by security wasn’t an odd enough, the Mariners also lost catcher Miguel Olivo in the 11th inning when he cut himself above the eye face-planting into first base to beat out an infield hit. Though the selfless belly flop didn’t lead to a run, it hardly went unnoticed by hit teammates
“That right there hits it right on the head what kind of team this is,” Pauley said. “These are scrappy guys who are going to do anything to win the game, especially these last three weeks or month. It’s that little thing, little play that makes a difference in the game. It’s not one guy. Every night it’s somebody different, and that’s just how we have been. We don’t give up, and it’s been fun. A lot of fun. And as long as we keep playing hard and doing things right, it’s going to keep going.”
Felix Hernandez, making his first start this season against New York, did not dominate the Yankee lineup the way he has in the past. Heading into Saturday night’s game, Hernandez was 4-0 in his last four starts against New York with a 0.51 earned run average. This time around, he allowed four runs, all earned, over the course of seven innings.
But as was the case Friday when the rest of the team picked up a less-than-dominant Michael Pineda, the Mariners twice erased New York leads to stay in the game when Hernandez wasn’t at his best.
The Yankees took an early lead in the second inning on Robinson Cano’s 10th homerun of the season, a line-drive that just cleared the wall in right field to lead off the inning. After the Mariners tied it in the bottom half of the inning on an Olivo RBI groundout—the fifth straight run Seattle scored via groundout—New York went right back ahead with a two-run homerun off the bat of Mark Teixeira.
The Mariners took the lead thanks to a three-run fourth inning that was highlighted by a two-run Olivo double and an RBI single from Brendan Ryan that extended the shortstop’s hitting streak to eight games.
Hernandez was at an even 100 pitches through six innings, but was allowed to go out for the seventh after cruising through his previous 3 2/3 innings following the Teixeira homer. Hernandez eventually got out of the inning 28 pitches later, but not before Curtis Granderson drove in the tying run with a triple that hit off the wall after Ichiro Suzuki mistimed his attempt at a leaping catch.
Ryan nearly put the Mariners back on top in the eighth, but was robbed of a two-out RBI hit by Alex Rodriguez, who made a diving stop of a hard-hit grounder. Both teams then went in order in the ninth, leading to extra innings.
The game was interrupted four times by (presumably) inebriated fans running onto the field, the third of whom was completely naked save for the hat on his head. All four were put in handcuffs and escorted off the field for their free weekend in jail.
“That was a little crazy,” Kennedy said. “The nude guy was a first.”
Herald Writer John Boyle: email@example.com.