Nelson who? Mitch Haniger's go-ahead HR rallied Mariners past A's
SEATTLE – A Mitch Mash. Then a Vogel-bomb.
That would do it.
The Seattle Mariners did a lot of damage with two outs in the bottom of the seventh inning. And then some.
Mitch Haniger turned on a full-count cutter, clearly eyeing it all the way as he sent it 397 feet over the left-field wall for a go-ahead three-run home run.
And Daniel Vogelbach two batters later followed with his first career home run, shooting a pitch 354 feet over the right-field wall.
Those big hits were the catalysts in the Mariners’ 7-4 victory against the visiting Oakland Athletics on Friday in their first matchup of the season against an American League West opponent.
“It’s everything you dream of,” Vogelbach said of his first home run. “It was awesome. Definitely a weight off my shoulders. Now I can just go play and that’s what I’m going to try to do.”
That rally, though.
The Mariners had one base hit since the first inning. They had two outs, no runners on base and trailed 3-2.
But a lot of good things happen for the Mariners when they get to the top of their lineup.
Jean Segura’s base hit kick-started it. Then Robinson Cano reached base for the fourth time in the game, drawing his third walk.
Gordon, Segura and Cano have combined to bat .357 this season.
So that set the table for Haniger, who already had an RBI single earlier.
“Just fastball inside and just trying to drive the ball and stay through it,” Haniger said. “And I was able to do that.”
He finished 2-for-4 with four RBIs.
“Robby understands the situation. They’re not going to give in to Robby,” Servais said. “And Hani has been behind him. Really good and really consistent for us. He’s not Nelson Cruz, but he’s certainly proving to be worthy to be hitting behind Robby. A lot of clutch RBIs deep in counts and he continues to battle.”
The big seventh inning negated the power play from Athletics’ designated hitter Khris Davis, who hit two home runs – he’s hit 17 home runs against the Mariners in his six seasons.
His solo shot in the top of the eighth inning cut the lead to 7-4, but Edwin Diaz shut the door in the ninth inning for his fifth save.
Diaz struck out one batter and worked around a two-out walk. Only James Paxton (21) has more strikeouts than Diaz (13) despite six Mariners pitchers having thrown more innings than Diaz so far.
“The top of our order has been really, really good,” Servais said. “They’ve been driving the train, so to speak and we’re going to need them to continue to do that. We’re going to get some guys back here who are used to hitting in the middle of our lineup, but right now you can’t say enough about Haniger, Robby taking his walks, what Jean has done, Dee at the top and Seags is starting to heat up bit time.”
Seager’s double in the first inning tied Raul Ibanez for fifth-most in Mariners history (216). And he now has 535 RBIs, tying him with Bret Boone for eighth-most in Mariners’ history.
CANO FACTOR: Robinson Cano is off to a torrid start.
Quietly, it seems, at that.
Without his at-bat, that rally seventh inning wouldn’t have happened. He drew his third walk of the game, pushing his on-base percentage to .578 in 11 games.
He finished 1-for-1 with two runs scored, pushing his batting average to .424.
“He’s using the whole field. That’s the biggest thing,” Servais said. “He’s not trying to hit homers. He’s trying to have good at-bats. That’s when Robby Cano is dynamite in the batter’s box. He’s really tough to pitch to and seeing him lay off the number of pitches that he is and taking the walks.
“Last year we saw him chasing balls out of the zone every once in a while. He’s hasn’t been doing that this year at all. It’s been great to see.”
With all the Mariners’ injuries, he’s been key to their offense, joining Mitch Haniger (2017), Ichiro (2006), Ken Griffey Jr. (1997) and Edgar Martinez (1995) as the only players in Mariners history with at least 10 hits, 10 runs scored and five walks in the team’s first 10 games.
Cano went 1-for-1 with two runs scored and three walks, pushing his batting average to .424.
LEAKE’S LOAD: The three runs the Athletics scored on Leake tied the most he has allowed in his eight starts with the Mariners since arriving on Aug. 30 in a trade from the St. Louis Cardinals.
He got a no-decision on Friday, but entering the day Leake had led the Mariners in wins (five), ERA (2.66), innings pitched (44) and was second in strikeouts (31) since he arrived.
Leake certainly doesn’t overpower, but he did have four strikeouts, including a critical one to escape a jam in the third inning, getting Mariner-killer Khris Davis to strikeout with runners at second and third with one out.
“I was OK with walking him I guess you could say,” Leake said with a smile after throwing Davis nothing but secondary pitches. “But that was big to get a big out right there and take the pressure off and then get two outs. That was a big moment.”
The Athletics’ runs came on Davis’ two-run home run on Leake in the first inning, Matt Chapman’s solo home run against Leake and then Davis’ second home run of the game (that against Juan Nicasio).
Leake has also pitched at least five innings in each of his starts.
“Since we acquired this guy he has been awesome,” Servais said. “Exactly what we’ve needed. A guy we can fire out there and you know what you’re getting. He’s going to keep you in the ball game and give you six or seven innings every time.”
<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-partner="tweetdeck"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">This was an awesome replay angle of Mitch Haniger's home run. His head is so still! Really great look at his swing mechanics. (h/t <a href="https://twitter.com/sanford_and_son?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@sanford_and_son</a> for the GIF) <a href="https://t.co/wUotXKo5hP">pic.twitter.com/wUotXKo5hP</a></p>— Jake Mailhot, the Last Jedi (@jakemailhot) <a href="https://twitter.com/jakemailhot/status/985038349726445568?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">April 14, 2018</a></blockquote> <script async src="https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>
CLEAN UP HITTER: Haniger’s time at clean-up hitter is temporary. And he knows that.
Nelson Cruz is expected to return to the Mariners’ lineup on Saturday for the first time since spraining his ankle after slipping on a step in the dugout and he’ll resume those No. 4-hitter duties behind Cano.
But Haniger through nine games batting fourth was a big plus for the Mariners.
“Nobody can replace Nelson Cruz,” Haniger said. “But I think everybody is doing a good job of just sticking together and trying to grind at-bats and be tough outs and that’s the key for us. He’s going to hit his home runs and get his RBIs and we’re looking forward to having him back.”
Haniger stood in the on-deck circle with Cano at the plate that seventh inning and he said he knew what was going to happen: Athletics’ left-hander Danny Coulombe would pitch around Cano before the A’s called on Chris Hatcher to face Haniger.
“And I was just ready for that moment,” Haniger said. “I knew they were going to bring in Hatcher and I was prepared.
“You hit in the middle of the lineup and you want guys on base for you. It’s been awesome to have (Cano) hitting in front of me and getting on base almost every single time.”