It was fitting that the end came 13 years to the day that Seattle Mariners and Boston Red Sox played 19 memorable innings at Safeco Field with the same final score of 5-4.
But this time it was in FenwayPark and there was no Mike Cameron to win this one for the Mariners.
After five hours of baseball and in the 15 innings, Boston’s Stephen Drew ended the game, lacing a bases-loaded single into right off of Mariners reliever Lucas Luetge, breaking a 4-4 tie to end the marathon game that started on Wednesday, July 31 and ended on Thursday, August 1.
“It was an outstanding game,” acting manager Robby Thompson said. “These guys battled, but unfortunately we came out on the losing side of things.”
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Most Mariners fans can recall the endless game on Aug. 1, 2000 at Safeco Field when the Red Sox and Mariners couldn’t break a 4-4 tie until the 19th inning. Cameron ended it dramatic fashion, crushing a 2-2 pitch off of Jeff Fassero into the Safeco stands for the victory.
The Red Sox’s win on Wednesday/Thursday didn’t have that suddenness. Luetge, who was in his third inning of work, walked Dustin Pedroia to start the inning, putting himself in immediate trouble. Ackley moved to second on David Ortiz’s ground out to first. With first base open, Thompson had Luetge intentionally walked Mike Napoli. Luetge’s ensuing walk to Johnny Gomes wasn’t intentional, but was understandable with the lefty-hitting Drew coming up.
But Drew got ahead 2-1 and jumped on a sinker, yanking a line drive over the head of Dustin Ackley at first base. It was the seventh time this season the Mariners have lost on a walk-off hit and they fell to 6-10 in extra inning games this season.
Thompson walked through the clubhouse postgame, offering positive reinforcement to the frustrated players.
“I told them way to battle and let’s forget about it,” Thompson said. “It was a hardfought battle. They’re tough to win on the road like that. They battled to the end against a very good ball club.”
Indeed, the Mariners (50-57) have lost five in a row to the Red Sox (65-44) with only one win against them this season. The Red Sox won both series this season. In fact, the last time the Mariners lost a series it was against Boston in Seattle on July 8-11.
“Obviously, we came up short,” Raul Ibanez said. “We battled the whole game.”
The Mariners seemed destined for defeat in the bottom of the 14th. Brandon Snyder, making his first at-bat of the night, doubled to center off of Luetge. The Red Sox had Jacoby Ellsbury bunt him over to third.
All Shane Victorino had to do was get a fly ball to the outfield to score Snyder. He did that. But he didn’t hit it quite far enough. Victorino’s fly ball went to shallow center field. Saunders camped under the fly ball, and showing textbook fundamentals, started moving forward toward home as he caught the ball to get momentum for his throw.
“We shallowed up as an outfield to make sure we could make a play,” Saunders said. “I’m trying to position myself behind the baseball and pretty much air it out.”
The result: a no-hop laser to catcher Humberto Quintero, who caught it early and side-stepped the charging Snyder, avoiding a serious collision and getting the double play to end the inning.
Even with the flyball being shallow, Saunders knew Snyder would make an attempt at home.“Maybe if there were no outs it might have been a different story,” Saunders said. “But a game going into the 14th inning with one out, I think any opportunity they do it.”
Saunders was mobbed by teammates in the dugout. And it looked as though the momentum of that inning would carry over to the top of the 15th.
Ibanez came up with one out single and Endy Chavez followed with a single off of Boston reliever Drake Britton.
Saunders stepped to the plate and lashed a hard line drive to left field. Johnny Gomes, who isn’t known for his defensive ability, made a brilliant half sliding-half diving catch.
“I think everyone was surprised,” Saunders said. “I hit it low and hit it hard. That’s how the Green Monster comes into play. Teams that play here typically try to play shallow because anything over their head is going to hit the wall. He played it how we would and made great play.”
Ibanez, who thought the ball was not going to get caught, broke for third and was rounding third when Gomes made the catch. He could only watch as Gomes jogged in from left field with the ball in his hand, screaming and celebrating, while stepping on second base for the unassisted double play.
“I checked the outfield after every pitch and I saw where they were playing and based off the trajectory of Saunders’ ball and the little fade that was on it, I didn’t think, I was certain, it was going to bounce,” Ibanez said. “Obviously, it didn’t, and he made a great play.”
Seattle coughed up a 3-2 lead in the seventh inning when reliever Oliver Perez gave up a two-run home run to Dustin Pedroia.
But the Mariners answered immediately in the top of the eighth inning. Kyle Seager blasted a solo home run – his 17th of the year – to tie it at 4-4 in the top of the eighth inning.
Relievers Yoervis Medina (2), Charlie Furbush (1), Danny Farquhar (3) made sure the game stayed tied.
The Mariners got a solid start from an ailing Hisashi Iwakuma. The right-hander was plagued by stiffness in the left side of his neck and shoulder.
“It affected my command,” he said through translator Antony Suzuki.
Iwakuma was good considering the circumstances. For the second straight day, the Mariners’ defense let down the starting pitcher. After Iwakuma gave up a lead-off double to Brock Holt, Dustin Ackley dropped a fly ball off the bat of Ellsbury and Nick Franklin booted a ground ball from Shane Victorino that allowed a run to score. The second run came across on a fielder’s choice. Faced with runners on first and second and one out, Iwakuma decided to take no chances with the play behind him. He struck out David Ortiz and Mike Napoli to end the inning.
He worked 5 2/3 innings giving up two unearned runs on seven hits with four strikeouts and two walks.