When I turned this game off to go to bed, it was already pretty nutty. Nick Vincent was on the mound to start the bottom of the eighth as the Mariners regained the lead, at this point 7-6. Ariel Miranda had a decent start going through the first five innings of the game, giving up 2 runs through that point, and the rest of the Mariners did sufficient damage to knock out Lance McCullers in the top of the fifth, as we put up a 3-run lead on the board.
Then, after two quick outs in the sixth, Miranda fell apart, culminating with the game-tying 2-run home run by Carlos Beltran. At that point, it started to feel like a normal Astros/Mariners game. Oh sure, they were toying around with us, letting us feel some semblance of comfort with such a lead; then those alligator jaws snapped shut right on our dicks! This line of thinking was further cemented when James Pazos had to relieve Miranda – still with two quick outs in the sixth – and proceeded to load the bases, necessitating another pitching change in the inning. Tony Zych walked in the go-ahead run before getting out of the jam, and that was that. Clap your hands and walk away, the Mariners were done for!
But, then something funny happened. And it continued to happen. Starting with the top of the seventh, Nelson Cruz homered to left to tie the game. Then, in the top of the eighth, Mike Zunino homered to left to give the Mariners their 1-run lead! Then, Nick Vincent took over and it all started to feel a lot better as I hit the sack. Surely our best reliever this season would keep the game in check!
You know, I can hardly blame the guy. It’s been a weird start to the second half; four days, four games where the Mariners have had a narrow lead in need of saving, four appearances by the likes of Nick Vincent. Three singles and a strikeout before the sac fly (off of Steve Cishek, who had to come in to mop up) tied the game, ultimately sending it to extras. That’s a lot of work for someone like Vincent; hell, he’s on pace to obliterate his season highs for appearances and innings pitched!
This has been one seriously overworked bullpen coming out of the break, and one that – by and large – has gotten the job done. Even Yovani Gallardo – who kicked off the bottom of the ninth, hoping to keep the game tied – managed to do his job (though, with a LOT of help from the defense of Jean Segura). Segura had probably two of the best defensive plays I’ve ever seen out of him in this game, including a dive in the hole and throw to first base from his knees. Between that, his two hits, and his run scored, there’s a good argument he was your player of the game.
But, really, there were a ton of heroes in this one. Kyle Seager hit the go-ahead homer in the tenth, followed immediately by the insurance homer from Danny Valencia to give the Mariners their eventual 9-7 victory. Or, how about Edwin Diaz, who has also pitched in the last four games, getting his fourth save in four days to give him 17 on the season and put him in the Top 10 in the A.L.
There’s the aforementioned homers by Cruz and Zunino, or the earlier 2-run double by Zunino, or the earlier RBI double by Valencia, or the Seager bunt against the shift (who came around to score on that Valencia double to the left field corner), or the other Seager infield single that allowed Gamel to score from third. And on and on and on.
All in all, it was a fantastic win, but it’s also not time to rest your laurels. This win doesn’t mean much if we go out and lose the next two. The last time we beat the Astros, it was at the end of a 6-game winning streak back in late June; the Mariners would go on to lose the next four (including two to the hapless Phillies) and 10 of their next 13, so you see how quickly this thing can turn on you. The time to get back over .500 for good is NOW, so let’s do this thing!
In case you were wondering, for posterity, the Mariners are back to 2nd place in the A.L. West (15.5 games behind the Astros), and 1.5 games behind the Yankees for the second Wild Card. Soak it in! Just in case this is as good as it gets.