The early Seattle sunshine could not mask how dark a day this was for Mariners baseball.
Their No. 3 hitter Robinson Cano – gone. Suspended and even if the Mariners were to somehow make the playoffs for the first time in 17 seasons, he wouldn’t be eligible to play.
Their No. 4 hitter Nelson Cruz – gone. Leaning on a trainer and manager Scott Servais while limping off the field after a slider struck his right foot.
Suddenly their once feared, lengthy lineup was without its two most veteran, accomplished batters.
Cano is one of shortstop Jean Segura’s closest friends on the team, their lockers near each other in the clubhouse. The Mariners had arrived from Minneapolis at 3 a.m. and Segura said Cano called him later in the day.
“I couldn’t even eat,” Segura said upon learning the news of Cano's suspension. “Nothing would get through my stomach. I felt sad, felt bad. I can’t explain how I felt. It was tough.”
Then the Mariners gave up a three-run lead, and by the eighth inning they were trailing. And then closer Edwin Diaz blew his second save of the season and Servais had spiked his hat into the infield dirt in disgust while berating an umpire before he was tossed from the game.
And still – the Mariners found a way.
They rallied for a pair of runs in the bottom of the eighth inning to take a lead, then Guillermo Heredia’s walk-off single scored Ryon Healy from second base in the bottom of the 11th inning for a 9-8 Mariners victory.
What a day.
“It shows our resilience, and that we’re not stopping,” Heredia said. “That there are going to be Mariners all the way to the playoffs.
"It was a huge game because those are two very important pieces (Cano and Cruz) of our lineup and despite all of the sadness around here the guy were able to pull it together."
The way Segura, Mitch Haniger, Kyle Seager, Healy and Heredia produced, it had to provide at least a glimmer of hope that the Mariners’ playoff hopes aren't dashed.
Segura had a big night.
He reached base four times, had three hits and the one time he got out, it was a fly ball to the warning track. He had the go-ahead RBI single to score Cano’s replacement at second base, Gordon Beckham, in the bottom of the eighth inning.
And Segura stole four bases. No player in Mariners history has stolen more than four bases in a game and only five others have done that, with Ichiro Suzuki (2010) being the most recent.
“Jean Segura, what a game, wow,” Servais said. “The defensive plays, the stolen bases – really brought his A-game tonight and we needed every bit of it.”
The Mariners improved to 24-18, winning their second consecutive game without Cano, who was suspended earlier for 80-games by MLB for violating its joint drug agreement and testing positive for a diuretic.
“Our guys were down in the clubhouse today, coming in after the news of everything,” Servais said. “You see the guys and especially Jean being so close with Robby frustrated by it. And the best way to take out your frustration is out on the field, not on the other team. And he did. The at-bats were incredible.”
Right-hander Erik Goeddel pitched two scoreless extra-innings of relief and earned his second win just a few months after the Rangers told him they didn’t have much of a place for him, even with their Triple-A club.
What has he proved since his call-up from Triple-A Tacoma?
“Just that I belong,” Goeddel said. “That I can get any lineup out.”
And just maybe the Mariners can turn their second-month adversity into something galvanizing.
But they’ll need their bullpen to find some semblance of the deep, talented group they thought they had coming into the season.
Start with Diaz.
With one out and Jurickson Profar on second base after a single and a wild pitch, Joey Gallo, who homered earlier in the game, sent a ground ball right at Healy behind first base.
The ball struck off of Healy’s chest, but he recovered for an under-hand toss to sprinting Diaz, who just touched the base before Gallo.
Except Profar’s heads-up base-running – he charged home with Diaz’s momentum taking him off first base and Diaz wasn’t able to turn and throw with the towering Gallo still in his trot past first.
Except Servais aggressively argued that Gallo interfered with Diaz, with Servais eventually slamming his cap onto the ground. He was tossed and Manny Acta took over the managing duties the rest of the way.
“Lost my hat,” Servais deadpanned as he entered the Mariners’ press-conference room. “Got to get a new hat. That’s the takeaway from today.”
But this game fell apart in the top of the eighth.
Juan Nicasio, the Mariners’ most touted offseason pitching acquisition, continued his May struggles, allowing a leadoff walk in and then back-to-back singles with Rangers No. 9-hitter Ronald Guzman’s RBI single giving Texas a 7-6 lead.
Nicasio had recorded 18 outs since the calendar turned to May – and he’s allowed 17 hits and nine earned runs after ending April as the major-league leader in holds.
But after all of that, Heredia, who would later line-drive that game-winning hit, led off the bottom of the eighth with a double and then came around to score on Beckham’s sacrifice bunt.
Rangers pitcher Jose Leclerc then threw the ball into right field trying to get Beckham as Heredia trotted across the plate to tie the game before Segura plated Beckham with his RBI single.
That was after the Rangers began tattooing Mariners starter Mike Leake in the sixth inning.
And suddenly the Mariners’ once 6-3 lead evaporated with four consecutive hits, starting with Joey Gallo’s 13th home run when he sliced it the opposite way over the left-field wall. He entered the day batting .199, but one home run off of the major-league lead.
Then back-to-back smoked doubles for Isiah Kiner-Falefa and Rougned Odor before Robinson Chirinos’ RBI single. That made it 6-6 and Mariners manager Scott Servais exited the dugout to pull Leake.
Dan Altavilla got the Mariners out of the inning. Well, actually, Dee Gordon got them out of the inning. Gordon, the likely soon-to-be second baseman, chased down former Mariner Shin-Soo Choo’s long fly ball to the warning track in center field, slid and corralled the ball for the third out with two runners on.
But Leake’s final line took a beating: 5 1/3 innings, nine hits allowed, six runs, but no walks and two strikeouts.
And he had been staked to a 6-3 lead.
Mitch Haniger and Kyle Seager were just a couple of feet away, each, from home runs. Haniger settled for an RBI triple and Seager a bases-loaded, bases-clearing double (less than a week after his grand slam) and Ryon Healy added his eighth home run.
Haniger played his second game hitting third in the order. He’s batted second, third, fourth, fifth and sixth at different points already this season.
Not many teams can replace their No. 3-hitter with a Haniger.
But then 33-year-old Tacoma native Brandon Mann, the Mount Rainier High School graduate who was making his second career appearance, entered in what should have been a feel-good story of a career minor leaguer who spent a few seasons in Japan, too, finally playing in the big leagues and doing so against the team he grew up rooting for.
But then he hit Cruz on the right foot with a slider. Cruz walked to first base, clenching his teeth in obvious pain, before Servais and a trainer had to help him off the field.
The Mariners said Cruz suffered a right foot contusion. He had an X-ray that came back negative, and he will be re-examined on Wednesday.
Cruz was in a walking boot afterward.
“Nelson has a bad bone bruise, which is really good news,” Servais said. “After seeing him get hit by that pitch and an inability to put any weight on his foot was really scary for me and for him.”
It was actually the second time in the game he was hit and the third time the past two games.
“He’s going to be out a day or two, no doubt,” Servais said. “But everybody knows his pain tolerance. He can usually play through a lot. We’ll just have to wait and see how it is (Wednesday).
“He’ll need a day off, and really a lot of guys need a day off. We just don’t have that in the schedule.”
The Mariners’ rotation moved back with Friday’s rain-out and Saturday’s doubleheader. So Servais said they will select right-hander Christian Bergman from Triple-A Tacoma to start Wednesday’s two-game series finale against the Rangers, which starts at 12:40 p.m.
They’ll also have to add him to the 40-man roster and make a corresponding move to create room for him on their 25-man. That move hadn’t yet been announced.
“We have a lot of good players,” Servais said. “Certainly when you have a couple of your big guys out, it does put a little more emphasis on just having quality at-bats – find a way to put the bat on the ball and put rallies together.
“It takes a big chunk of power out of our lineup, Healy is swinging the bat great, Hani had a good night, Segura – a lot of guys chipped in. That’s what it’s going to take.”
TJ Cotterill: 253-597-8677