Shawn O’Malley’s two-run single in the ninth inning Friday capped an improbable rally that lifted the Mariners to a second straight comeback victory over the Chicago Cubs.
O’Malley’s line drive to right field against Maikel Cleto punctuated a three-run ninth inning that produced an 11-10 walk-off victory in front of 12,201 — the biggest crowd of the spring at Peoria Stadium.
The Mariners trailed 10-2 entering the bottom of the seventh inning.
"Our guys really hung in there," manager Scott Service said. "Just have good at-bats and don’t get caught up in the score. It’s good to see the young kids with big hits…Good day. It’s nice to have a comeback like that."
The victory came one day after the Mariners (9-5) scored four runs in the ninth inning for an 8-6 victory over the Cubs (4-7-3) in Mesa.
Despite the wild finish, Friday’s game started off as a pitchers’ duel.
Mariners starter Chris Heston continued to position himself as a top backup option for the rotation by working three more scoreless innings. He has not allowed a run in six innings over three appearances.
Cubs starter Kyle Hendricks also pitched three scoreless innings. The game remained scoreless through the fourth before the deluge hit.
Nick Vincent gave up three Chicago runs in the fifth inning, including two on a homer by Chris Dominguez. Hard-throwing Thyago Vieira gave up four more runs in the sixth, including a two-run homer by Chesny Young.
The Mariners answered each time with single runs, but the Cubs pushed out to a 10-2 lead on Ian Happ’s three-run homer in seventh inning against Micah Owings.
Then it was all Mariners.
Joe DeCarlo’s three-run homer capped a four-run seventh that closed the gap to 10-6. When Luis Liberato circled the bases for a two-run, inside-the-park homer in the eighth, the Mariners were back to within 10-8.
DeCarlo started the ninth inning with a single. D.J. Peterson’s double scored pinch-runner Ian Miller before Cleto walked Tuffy Gosewisch. Zach Shank’s inadvertent sacrifice moved the runners to second and third.
O’Malley ended it.
PLAY OF THE GAME: Third baseman Kyle Seager took a bunt single away from Albert Amora Jr. in the first inning by charging in, making a barehanded pickup and delivering a strong throw to first.
PLUS: Lefty reliever Marc Rzepczynski had a quick one-two-three inning after replacing Heston before the game turned into a slugfest…catcher Carlos Ruiz completed a strikeout/throw-out double play by gunning down Ian Happ in the second inning. That bailed out Heston from a first-and-third jam with one out…Dan Vogelbach and Ben Gamel were each 2-for-3. Vogelbach is batting .345 (10-for-29), and Gamel is batting .308 (8-for-26.
MINUS: Shank’s sacrifice bunt in the ninth was a mistake. While he executed the play perfectly, he missed the sign. He was supposed to swing away…Vincent, Vieira and Owings all struggled. Servais said: "Too many balls in the middle of the plate. A lot of fastballs in the middle of the plate."…Jarrod Dyson and Seager were each hitless in three at-bats.
STAT PACK: It was 40 years ago Friday — March 10, 1977 — that the Mariners played their first Cactus League game. They lost 16-10 to Oakland in Tempe, which served as the Mariners’ spring home through 1992…the Mariners and Cubs played in front of 27,308 fans over the last two games.
SPRING BATTLES: Utilityman Mike Freeman started at second base and went 2-for-3 but had his third error of the spring. Taylor Motter started at shortstop and had a single in three at-bats. O’Malley played the final four innings in left field and went 1-for-3 with the game-winning single.
QUOTABLE: Heston was 12-11 with a 3.95 ERA two years ago at San Francisco, but struggled last year before suffering a torn oblique muscle in late June that effectively ended his season.
The Mariners acquired him in a December trade, but he appears ticketed for Triple-A Tacoma unless an injury creates an opening in the big-league rotation. He tries not to think about that.
"You’ve just got to go out there and pitch," he said. "If you try to focus on too many of the outside factors, it will show out there. For me, it’s just going out there, attacking the zone and then seeing where the pieces fall."
SHORT HOPS: Heston is ticketed for at least one more Cactus League start — three or four innings on Wednesday against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Peoria Stadium…the Mariners’ 18 hits were a spring high. They’ve had 17 on two previous occasions.
UP NEXT: The Mariners will take a look at a pair of their top rotation backups in a piggyback set-up at 12:10 p.m. Saturday when they play Cincinnati at Peoria Stadium.
Newly-acquired Chase De Jong is scheduled to start and work two or three innings before Andrew Moore pitches three innings. Also scheduled: Shae Simmons, Nick Hagadone, Cody Martin and James Pazos.
The Reds list lefty Brandon Finnegan as their starter. The game can be seen on Root Sports Northwest and heard on 710 ESPN and mariners.com.
DAYS LEFT UNTIL OPENING DAY: 23
Bob Dutton: @TNT_Mariners