ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Kyle Seager simply refused to surrender the spotlight Tuesday night in leading the Seattle Mariners to a rollicking 7-6 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays in 10 innings at Tropicana Field.
Seager’s second homer of the game, a one-out drive to straightaway center, punctuated a wild ride that saw Fernando Rodney squander a three-run lead in the ninth inning.
“For me, usually, that part of the ballpark,” Seager said, “I’m not too sure. I knew I hit it good. It felt good, but I was running.”
That earlier three-run lead came courtesy of a Seager grand slam in the eighth inning. The Mariners held on in the 10th behind Joe Beimel, which meant Rodney (2-2) got the victory.
Beimel worked a one-two-three inning (VIDEO LINK) that consisted of a soft comebacker to the mound and two strikes for his fifth career save and first since June 11, 2009 while pitching for Washington against Cincinnati.
“It’s not something I’ve done a whole lot of,” he said. “I had so much adrenaline. At one point, I had to step off the mound and refocus on the hitter because it was overtaking me a little bit.
“I had thrown a couple of pitches (to Bobby Wilson) when basically not even realizing I had thrown a couple of pitches. I don’t think I’ll sleep a whole lot tonight.”
It was that kind of game.
The Mariners improved to 22-23 and cliched a winning road trip at 5-3 heading into Wednesday’s series finale. They now have Felix Hernandez lined up in an effort to complete a series sweep and get back to .500.
Tuesday’s roller coaster started with the Mariners jumping to a 2-0 lead in the first inning — but squandering the chance to get much more — and then giving the lead right back later in the inning.
“That first inning, when you’re having that kind of inning, it’s tough,” Mariners starter J.A. Happ said. “I just tried to bear down and just find a way to get us as deep as I could. I just wasn’t real sharp.”
The Rays then took a 3-2 lead on Jake Elmore’s two-out RBI single in the third against Happ, who worked through the sixth.
It stayed 3-2 until the eighth, when Seager hit a grand slam that broke a franchise-record drought of 140 plate appearances without one.
Rodney simply couldn’t hold it, although it was an off-target throw by second baseman Robinson Cano (VIDEO LINK) on a potential game-ending double play that permitted the Rays to score the tying run.
Cano said he had a poor grip on the ball — no thumb or forefinger — and the throw pulled first baseman Logan Morrison away from the base as the tying run scored.
“I knew right away (it was a bad throw),” Cano said. “That was the worst. Not being able to turn a double play like that.”
A good throw ends the game and gives Rodney a remarkable escape. The Rays had two runs in and runners at second and third with no outs after Evan Longoria’s bases-loaded double off the top of the left-field wall.
“I thought (Rodney) was OK,” manager Lloyd McClendon said. “He got the ground ball to end it, and I saw something I’ve never seen from one of the greatest second basemen of all time.”
Seager’s game-winner came on an 0-2 pitch from Rays closer Brad Boxberger (2-2), who had not surrendered a homer this season in 18 previous appearances and entered the game with a 1.10 ERA.
“I was able to get ahead early and just made a bad pitch,” Boxberger said. “I pretty much threw it right down the middle, and he didn’t miss it. That’s for sure.”
Seager’s slam in the eighth came against lefty Jake McGee on a first-pitch fastball. It was a no-doubter to deep right field.
“I don’t want to fall behind him (with the bases loaded),” McGee said. “He just got a decent pitch. It leaked back over the plate, and he hit it out.”
It was the first slam by a Mariner since a Brad Miller bomb on Sept. 28, 2013 in a 7-5 victory over Oakland at Safeco Field. The previous club-record drought was 133 plate appearances from 1979-81.
“I’ve faced McGee in the past,” Seager said, “and it’s not a comfortable at-bat. He goes right at you.”
That slam seemed to punctuate a nice comeback after the Mariners appeared headed for another numbing loss. Their attack flat-lined after a two-run brace in the first against Rays starter Alex Colome.
Tom Wilhelmsen was positioned for the victory after escaping a second-and-third jam with one out in the seventh inning. He got the first out in the eighth before Charlie Furbush closed the inning.
That got the game to Rodney.
“Did we win that game?” McClendon asked. “I’ve been around a long time. That’s a first one for me in a lot of different respects. There were a lot of weird things that went on in that ballgame.
“Sometimes, it’s winning ugly, but you win. That’s all that counts.”