Don Wakamatsu called it “a game of attrition.” The Seattle manager may have been underselling Sunday’s mind-blowing, adrenaline-draining, momentum-changing, 15-inning marathon, which the Mariners somehow won over the Oakland Athletics, 8-7, at Safeco Field.
Heck, the well-used cliché “war of attrition” might not even be enough.
At the end of the day, this much happened:
• The game went 15 innings and lasted 5 hours and 2 minutes.
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• The teams combined for 131 plate appearances.
• The teams used a combined 13 pitchers, with Oakland reliever Gio Gonzalez throwing 108 pitches, while Oakland starter Josh Outman threw only 87 and Mariners starter Chris Jakubauskas only 78.
• Speaking of pitches, the Mariners’ eight pitchers combined for 266 pitches, 162 for strikes. While the A’s used only five pitchers – thanks to Gonzalez – they combined for 260 pitches, with 164 of them for strikes.
• Jose Lopez and Ichiro Suzuki came to bat eight times each, and Ryan Sweeney and Orlando Cabrera of the A’s also had eight plate appearances.
• The teams combined to strand 29 runners and go a collective 7-for-30 (.233 average) with runners in scoring position.
• The game was so long, there were two seventh-inning stretches and two singings of “Take Me Out to the Ball Game.”
“It was just a phenomenal game to come out on top in,” Wakamatsu said.
Indeed, the game was phenomenal, but the ending was a bit sloppy for the A’s.
After Franklin Gutierrez singled softly to right off starter-forced-to-be-reliever Dana Eveland to start the bottom of the 15th, the Mariners played small ball to manufacture the winner.
Yuniesky Betancourt, whose bunting skills are a work in progress, laid down a sacrifice bunt. However, he bunted it straight back to Eveland with a fair amount of pace.
Eveland turned and fired to second base to try to get lead runner Gutierrez, but his throw sailed high and wide of shortstop Orlando Cabrera into center field. Gutierrez advanced to third and Betancourt was safe at first.
Eveland intentionally walked Ichiro Suzuki to load the bases and bring up Jose Lopez, who had provided the game-winning single in Friday night’s 8-7 win.
Lopez again delivered.
The A’s brought the outfield close for a play at the plate, and Lopez hit a pop to shallow center. But center fielder Rajai Davis got confused and broke back, only to realize the ball was not hit hard. He tried to recover, but the ball dropped in and Gutierrez scored.
“It felt better than I did Friday night,” said Lopez, when asked to compare the situations. “There were two outs then. This time, all I had to do was get a fly ball.”
But Lopez was just one of many heroes for Seattle in the game.
The Mariners trailed from the top of the first inning, when Jakubauskas struggled and gave up three runs, including a two-run homer by Jack Cust.
But Seattle scrapped back. Mike Sweeney hit his first homer of the season and the 200th of his career in the fourth, a two-run shot that cut the deficit to 3-2.
“I was just thankful to contribute with the homer early,” Sweeney said.
Oakland pushed its lead to 4-2 an inning later, but the Mariners pecked away. Ichiro singled home a run in the seventh and Kenji Johjima tied the game in the bottom of the ninth with a solo home run.
Tied at 4, each team had opportunities in extra innings but couldn’t scratch out a run.
Not until the 13th, when Oakland teed off on reliever Miguel Batista, who’d been instrumental in keeping the Mariners in it for three innings. He got a bad break when his two-out, 2-2 pitch to Landon Powell with runners on first and third was called a ball by home plate umpire Derryl Cousins.
Powell doubled on the next pitch to score both runners. A Lopez error led to another run, putting Seattle down three.
After the Mariners failed to score even one run through three innings, scoring three seemed implausible. But a few Mariners players in the dugout – specifically Sweeney – wouldn’t allow any mental surrender.
“There was a rumbling in the dugout and it was a feeling of like we’re not going to give up,” Sweeney said. “I was doing some yelling.”
Seattle loaded the bases against a suddenly reeling Gonzalez, who then walked in a run, allowed another on a fielder’s choice and gave up the tying hit to Ichiro.
“We rallied around each other and tied it back up,” Sweeney said.
That Seattle was able to fight back after giving up a demoralizing three runs in extra innings is something not all teams can do.
“I’ve been on teams where the dugout would be like a morgue,” Sweeney said.
Two innings later, the Seattle dugout emptied as the Mariners chased down Lopez to celebrate the winning hit.
“It shows the character of this club, to be down three runs and be able to come back,” Wakamatsu said.
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