Mariners Won’t Balk at Narrowly Won 5-4 Game

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SEATTLE, WA - AUGUST 17: Utility infielder Andrew Romine #7 of the Seattle Mariners and third baseman Kyle Seager #15 of the Seattle Mariners joke as they walk off the field after Romine pitched the ninth inning of a game against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Safeco Field on August 17, 2018 in Seattle, Washington. The Dodgers won the game 11-1. (Photo by Stephen Brashear/Getty Images)
SEATTLE, WA - AUGUST 17: Utility infielder Andrew Romine #7 of the Seattle Mariners and third baseman Kyle Seager #15 of the Seattle Mariners joke as they walk off the field after Romine pitched the ninth inning of a game against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Safeco Field on August 17, 2018 in Seattle, Washington. The Dodgers won the game 11-1. (Photo by Stephen Brashear/Getty Images) /
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After a crushing 11-1 defeat in which the Dodgers hit 5 home runs, the Mariners rebounded well as they jumped out to a 4-1 lead in the first inning against Rich Hill, but 3 more Dodger home runs late changed the tone of the ballgame and took it to extras.

Erasmo Ramirez got the start on Saturday evening and looked shaky out of the gate. He didn’t have a feel for his fastball early and walked Joc Pederson to lead off the game. He coaxed a double-play grounder in the next at-bat, but Kyle Seager didn’t handle it smoothly and ultimately, was fortunate to recover in time to get Justin Turner at first base.

With Pederson on second, Cody Bellinger opened the scoring with an RBI single up the middle. Things looked to worsen as Erasmo then walked Brian Dozier but he recovered to strike out Yasmani Grandal and send the game to the bottom half of the first.

Mitch Haniger stayed locked in from the leadoff spot by taking a 6-pitch walk against lefty Rich Hill who also looked to be searching for his groove. Maybin advanced him with a groundout before Cano slashed a hard grounder that glanced off Turner’s glove and froze Haniger at second. Machado recovered the ball but threw it away trying to get the throw over in time and Haniger trotted into third.

Nelson Cruz came through with a line drive RBI single into right field and brought up Kyle Seager who, despite continuing to struggle, has been hitting the ball well recently.

Although Seager has returned to his hitched load, his hands during that load have remained steady, and since making that change, he has had a .397 xwOBA.

That recent penchant for hard contact only continued as he smashed a 1-0 fastball at 104.3 mph for a 3-run home run to give the Mariners a 4-1 lead. The ball traveled 394 feet as Seager’s improved contact finally precipitated after another quiet week at the plate.

Things settled down for both teams after the 1st inning, and the middle innings proved to be a back-and-forth, pitching- and defense-lead affair.

Erasmo Ramirez improved as he went along, showing a good changeup most of the night, and he ended his effort with a strong, 8-pitch 5th inning. He finished with 90 pitches and turned the ball over to Nick Vincent for a quick and clean 6th.

Meanwhile, Rich Hill also settled in as he fired 5 scoreless innings following the first. Like, Ramirez, he didn’t quite have it tonight but had to escape trouble to end his night strongly. He struck out 8 but walked 5 and exited the game with 4 earned runs and 6 IP to his name.

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In both halves, the 7th inning was manned by a reliever who doesn’t exactly inspire confidence in fans, but each guy pitched well. Pedro Baez and Zach Duke both looked good and threw fine innings to cap the scoreless middle frames.

With a 3-run lead heading into the 8th, the Mariners had to feel good about their chances to win. Alex Colome and Edwin Diaz were lined up to shut the game down, but Colome looked inconsistent pitch-to-pitch when he entered.

Justin Turner worked him to a 2-2 count before lifting an elevated fastball over the left-field wall for a solo home run. This cut the Mariners’ lead to 2 runs and ended Colome’s 20-inning scoreless streak. A strikeout of Machado on a 96-mph fastball represented an emphatic comeback, but Bellinger shot the very next pitch – another fastball – deep into the right-field bleachers to make it a 1-run game.

With the game now on the line, Colome came back with a lot of sliders, including 6 straight to Dozier before striking him out looking on an outside fastball. He was also wild against Grandal. He was finally able to strike him out on a low 3-2 slider, but the damage was done.

The Mariners weren’t able to cash in on any insurance runs in the 8th inning, but they still confidently turned over a 1-run lead to Edwin Diaz. It should have been automatic.

But it wasn’t.

Even the best of us are human, and Edwin Diaz aka “The best of us” showed just that tonight. He couldn’t quite reign in his fastball and one caught too much of the plate to Max Muncy on a full count.

The game-tying, save-blowing, solo home run from Muncy ended another Mariners’ streak — Diaz’s 28 straight saves — but it was all the Dodgers could take back.

At 4-4 in the bottom of the 9th inning, after a Seager pop out, Healy softly slapped a groundball against the shift and a look of surprise mixed with a little relief scampered across his face as he reached first base safely by a couple steps.

Andrew Romine then pinch ran for him and Denard Span pinch hit for Mike Zunino against JT Chargois. After a bit of a delay in which Chargois kept an eye on Romine only to stall, Dave Roberts came out to bring in a lefty, Caleb Ferguson.

On Ferguson’s very first pitch, Span hit a hard ground ball up the middle that Machado got to with a slide, but in a rush to get an out, Machado flipped the ball behind his back and missed Dozier at second base.

Everybody was safe, but Dee Gordon followed with a fly out to center field and Guillermo Heredia struck out to, perhaps predictably, end the threat.

Adam Warren threw a lengthy 10th inning that included a loud fly out from Bellinger and a stolen base from Justin Turner, but he got the game to the bottom half still tied.

Coming into the game, since moving to the leadoff spot on August 9th, Haniger has sported a .389/.405/.694 line and a 202 wRC+ with 9 extra base hits, and after 3 walks and a groundout, he wasted no time continuing his hot streak by lining a single into right field on the first pitch of the inning.

SEATTLE, WA – MAY 28: Relief pitcher Alex Colome #48 of the Seattle Mariners reacts after pitching during the eighth inning of a game against the Texas Rangers at Safeco Field on May 28, 2018 in Seattle, Washington. The Mariners won the game 2-1. MLB players across the league are wearing special uniforms to commemorate Memorial Day. (Photo by Stephen Brashear/Getty Images)
SEATTLE, WA – MAY 28: Relief pitcher Alex Colome #48 of the Seattle Mariners reacts after pitching during the eighth inning of a game against the Texas Rangers at Safeco Field on May 28, 2018 in Seattle, Washington. The Mariners won the game 2-1. MLB players across the league are wearing special uniforms to commemorate Memorial Day. (Photo by Stephen Brashear/Getty Images) /

Maybin nearly erased that effort as he hit his fourth ground ball of the night but he barely beat out the double play to keep the inning competitive.

Cano followed with a perfectly placed ground ball base hit between Muncy and Dozier that took a diving stop to keep Haniger from advancing to third. Then, new pitcher Dylan Floro, apparently wanting no piece of Nelson Cruz, loaded the bases with a 5 pitch walk.

That brought up Kyle Seager whose early game heroics seemed like a distant memory at this point. As Seager readied himself to try to end the game, Floro came set and…balked. With the bases loaded and one out, Floro balked in the winning run.

After weeks and weeks of scraping anything together to push across runs, after another 8 scoreless innings following a home run, after the most automatic bullpen duo in baseball over the last month blew a 3-run lead, the Mariners caught a huge break in a situation they have struggled to capitalize in all season.

While even the most optimistic of fans had an inning-ending double play somewhere in the back of their minds, as quickly as you could blink your eyes, the winning run came in.

Nelson Cruz seemingly knew it immediately; the umps called it just as quickly. Fans at the stadium caught on, and then Seager, looking half charmingly confused and half triumphantly confident, threw his fist up in celebration.

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When asked after the game whether he realized it was a balk in real time, Seager had this to say:

“Yeah, I had no idea.”

Mariners win 5-4.

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