ANAHEIM - When trailing after eight innings this season, the Seattle Mariners were 2-68, and their fans and pitching staff had largely given up hope of many more come-from-behind victories.
So when they scored twice in the ninth inning here to tie the game, it was difficult to tell who was more surprised – the Los Angeles Angels or the Mariners.
Scoring runs any time has been difficult, but in the ninth inning, trailing 3-1, and facing closer Fernando Rodney? Put it this way: In starter David Pauley’s last 27 innings, dating back to Aug. 18, the Mariners have scored …once.
As it turned out, it was dramatic, but not enough for a win.
Bobby Abreu’s one-out home run off Brian Sweeney in the bottom of the 14th inning gave the Angels a 4-3 victory and left Seattle with a 2-69 record in games in which they trailed after eight.
Down to their final two outs in the ninth inning, the Mariners got a single from Franklin Gutierrez, then a double from Jose Lopez to get Gutierrez home. Casey Kotchman then went the other way, spraying a ground ball double just inside the third-base line to get Lopez home with the tie.
Unprecedented? No – but no one in the Seattle clubhouse could remember the last ninth inning comeback.
This wasn’t just a game in which Seattle had rallied in the ninth inning, it was a long night marked by tenacity.
After working a quick ninth inning, Brandon League opened the 10th by walking Bobby Abreu and, with one out, intentionally walking Hideki Matsui. That put the Angels in point-blank range to win – and Mike Napoli grounded a ball hard up the middle.
Second baseman Chone Figgins back-handed the ball behind second base and, with no other play, flipped the ball behind his back toward shortstop Josh Wilson at the bag.
Wilson caught the ball bare-handed, stepped on second and threw to first for as pretty a double play as any the Mariners have turned in 2010.
An inning later, with Garrett Olson working, the Angels got a single and a walk with one out. Olson got a hard-hit ground ball to short, and Wilson-Figgins-and-Kotchman pulled off another double play.
On to the 12th inning.
And then the 13th, with Sweeney replacing Olson.
Then the 14th, with the Mariners going quickly in each extra inning and the Angels threatening and coming up short. Until Abreu, who ended it with a shot beyond the center field wall.
As for Pauley and his astonishing stretch without run support, it had ended in the fifth inning – when he was trailing 2-0 – and it wasn’t all Seattle’s doing.
Leading off the fifth inning, Kotchman singled. With one out, Michael Saunders singled Kotchman to third base. When Torii Hunter tried to throw Kotchman out at third, his throw sailed wild, and Kotchman trotted home.
As runs go, it wasn’t much. And it was all Pauley got.