I remember looking at the schedule back when the season was about to kick off, and I noticed that the Mariners were going to play the defending champion Atlanta Braves at home in the middle of September. I was excited to see the Mariners get a chance to take on the champs, hopeful that it would be a Mariners team fighting for a playoff spot.
Heading into that series, things were looking good, but it was not clear yet that the Mariners were going to make the playoffs. They had a 5 game lead for the final spot, but we're a half game back of the 5th seed they'd eventually settle on. The series was definitely about marching towards October, but it was also a test of how much the Mariners could hang with a tremendous 100+ win Braves team.
Looking back, the Mariners and Braves series was epic, and the rubber match was madness. Hopefully this will be a precursor to many more battles between these two teams.
A Quick Recap of the Mariners v Braves Walk Off
The Sunday rubber match got off to a bang after Julio went opposite field for a leadoff home run in the top of the first off of Jake Odorozzi. It was his 24th of the season and gave the Mariners an early lead.
From there, starting pitcher Marco Gonzalez provided one of his best performances of the year. Gonzalez showed that superb command that made him Seattle's top pitcher during the rebuild. Gonzalez went 6 innings, giving up only 2 hits and 1 run, a 3-0 ambush homer by Austin Riley. Marco gave up zero walks and struck out five, leaving the game with a 6-1 lead.
The Mariners had a 6-1 lead going to the top of the 8th thanks to a 2 run triple by Adam Frazier, who was brought home by Sam Haggerty making it 4-1 in the 4th. A Eugenio Suarez home run and a JP Crawford double were all the scoring it appeared Seattle needed heading to the 8th inning.
In the top of the 8th, the Braves got a run back thanks to National League Rookie of the Year Michael Harris II hitting a laser solo homerun off of Erik Swanson. Heading to the 9th with a 6-2 lead and a surprisingly effective Diego Castillo at the time, the vibes were good.
Those vibes quickly faded into shock and horror as the 2nd worst 9th inning of the Mariners 2022 season took place. Castillo walked the first two batters, then got two huge outs. Two on, two out, and Michael Harris II is down to his final strike. What proceeded may be the most impressive home run I've seen in Seattle since the 2001 All-Star Game. Harris II launched a ball clear over the Hit It Here Cafe. All of a sudden the Braves were down 6-5.
Scott Servais went to the bullpen and brought out Paul Sewald to try and finish the game. After having Eddie Rosario down to his final strike, he laced a ball into right field for a hit, keeping the Braves alive. Three pitches later, Sewald gave up a gutwrencher of a home run to Robbie Grossman…7-6 Braves…T-Mobile Park was in shock. The vibes were not good.
Everyone was in shock, except Julio Rodriguez. Rodriguez was seen on the ROOT telecast jogging into the Mariners dugout with a smile on his face. I remember thinking that was very strange, but I appreciated the confidence.
Julio knew what he was smiling about because leading off the bottom of the 9th, he hit a rocket of a home run (seriously, it was 117.2 mph) off of star closer Kenley Jansen, tying the game up and sending the crowd into a roar. Julio showed his power (25th home run) and future greatness, as he literally dented the scoreboard he hit it so hard.
The game had nearly gone off the rails, but Eugenio Suarez decided to blow the roof off at T-Mobile. With two outs and Jansen still in the game, Suarez took a low and inside cutter, and golfed it out to the Mariners bullpen, just out of reach of Guillermo Heredia, and a walk-off home run (30th home run) to stun the champs and win the series.
The Mariners played some crazy and impactful games this season, but that Sunday walk off over Atlanta was an all-timer.
Dave Sims said after the game, "We have just seen something unbelievably special. I mean un... believable. Gotta love to it"