Just another roller-coaster ride Sunday at O.co Coliseum and, this time, the Seattle Mariners escaped with a wild, 8-7 victory over the Oakland Athletics in 10 innings.
Nelson Cruz’s two-out homer provided the winning margin after the Mariners saw Fernando Rodney, their All-Star closer, squander a four-run lead in the ninth inning.
“That’s the kind of situation you dream about happening,” left fielder Dustin Ackley said, “but it usually doesn’t happen. You’re thinking, ‘Oh, we need a homer.’ It never happens.
“Well, this time it did. It was awesome.”
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Cruz’s drive to left against Tyler Clippard had just enough carry to clear the left-field wall beyond a leaping Ben Zobrist.
“I didn’t think it was going to be out,” Cruz said, “because I hit it at the end of the bat. I was surprised it went out.”
Yoervis Medina then did what Rodney couldn’t do; he closed out the Athletics with a scoreless inning — which meant Rodney got credit for the victory.
“I was surprised in the bullpen (to have to pitch),” Medina said. “It was like, ‘Oh, my God!’ Then it was like, ‘OK, I’m fine.’ ”
What a wild ride.
“We didn’t have many of these games in the past, where if something happened, that we had the firepower to come back,” catcher Mike Zunino said. “It’s nice to see that working early.”
The Mariners failed to get a hit through five innings against Jesse Hahn but appeared poised for a victory after scoring four times in the sixth and getting a three-run pinch-hit homer from Rickie Weeks in the seventh.
But Rodney’s problems started immediately in the ninth.
Josh Reddick lined a leadoff double, and Marcus Semien walked. Both runners scored on Sam Fuld’s double into the right-field corner.
The Athletics put the tying run on base when Mark Canha reached on an infield single as Fuld held second base. A walk to Zobrist loaded the bases with no outs.
“I feel I was missing a little bit,” Rodney said. “The (3-2) pitch to Zobrist, I thought that was a good pitch. That changes the situation. It’s going to happen.”
Oakland got to 7-6 on Billy Butler’s double-play grounder, and pulled even on Eric Sogard’s pinch-hit RBI single. Rodney finally got the third out when Tumwater’s Stephen Vogt grounded out to second.
Well ... it ended well.
The victory enabled the Mariners to win the three-game series after absorbing a 12-0 thrashing in Friday’s opener to close out the season’s first week at 3-3.
Mariners starter Felix Hernandez exited after five innings because of tightness in his right quadriceps. Club officials characterized the move as “precautionary,” but he wasn’t sharp.
Hernandez had just one strikeout while giving up three runs and eight hits. He said he twisted his right ankle in fielding Fuld’s leadoff grounder in the first and “stretched too much” in completing a double play in the third.
But Hernandez dismissed any concern — “not at all” — that he won’t be ready for his next scheduled start.
The Mariners bailed him out of a three-run hole with a four-run sixth that capitalized on a crucial error by Reddick in right field. He boxed a liner by Robinson Cano that should have resulted in the third out.
Instead, the Mariners scored two runs on the play. Kyle Seager added an RBI single before reliever Eric O’Flaherty, an ex-Mariner, ended the inning.
Weeks then unloaded a three-run homer in the seventh for a 7-3 lead. Danny Farquhar and Charlie Furbush, meanwhile, combined for three scoreless innings before Rodney’s meltdown.
“There’s a different mentality this year,” Seager said. “Today is a good example. We got a good lead. They battled like crazy there at the end and were able to tie it up. Then, boom! The next inning we take the lead.”
Thanks to Cruz.
“Two outs,” Ackley said, “and him getting that ball out of there. I think, at that point, we knew we were going to do it.”