Thought one-man-wrecking-crew games were reserved for Mike Trout?
Mitch Haniger’s two home runs weren’t enough.
Then he had to disappear into the right field corner in the top of the sixth inning, chasing what Luis Valbuena assumed was a double.
Then a throw from 242 feet away, Jean Segura’s swiveling, behind-the-back tag and Safeco Field was in uproar with Valbuena out at second base.
So much for Valbuena’s bat flip.
“It was kind of a karma play,” Mariners pitcher Mike Leake said.
throw.— MLB (@MLB) June 13, 2018
More tag. pic.twitter.com/MWBm7KLPtl
And that was just the start of the highlight-reel bonanza that was this Seattle Mariners-Los Angeles Angels game Tuesday night.
Haniger had his second multi-homer game of his career and added that rope from the right-field corner. Ryon Healy hit two home runs, and so did Mike Trout (again).
But for the second consecutive night, the Mariners survived Trout’s shellacking with power bats of their own for a 6-3 victory, with Edwin Diaz striking Trout out for the final out of the game and his 25th save of the season.
“Obviously Mitch Haniger – what a game. Wow,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said. “A couple of home runs and an unbelievable throw.
“Mitch is a five-tool player. He can hit for average, he’s got some power, he’s a pretty good defender, runs the bases well and he’s off to a great start this season. It’s fun to watch.”
Yesterday, Mike Trout and Nelson Cruz each had 2 HR for the @Angels & @Mariners.— Stats By STATS (@StatsBySTATS) June 13, 2018
Tonight, Trout, Mitch Haniger and Ryon Healy have 2 HR apiece.
This is the 1st time in MLB history a team has had back-to-back games with a multi-HR player on both teams. #TheHaloWay #TrueToTheBlue
Make that 19 games over .500 for the Mariners (43-24).
Yes, 19 games over .500. They haven't been 19 games over since 2007 and the Mariners retained first place in the American League West, leading the Houston Astros by a half game. This June gauntlet of a schedule is really just getting going, but Seattle is 9-2 so far this month.
“It’s been fun,” Haniger said. “Even when we’re not hitting home runs and we’re in close ball games, the energy has just always been really good this year. And team chemistry has been great. It’s been really fun playing with these guys and we’ve been pitching awesome and playing good defense. Everything is kind of clicking right now.”
In two games since the Angels came to town, these teams have combined for 12 home runs.
The Mariners had first base open for Trout in the top of the seventh inning after Ian Kinsler stole second base. But Trout had two strikes on him and Ryan Cook had a changeup drift onto the inside corner.
So why not walk Trout and put him on first base?
“I mean, the worst-case scenario he hits a home run,” Servais said. “And then the net guy has to hit a home run. So you have to hit two home runs. If it wasn’t a three-run lead at the time that would have changed things.”
That trimmed the Mariners’ lead to 4-3 and was Trout’s second home run of the game and second against Cook in as many nights. It also made Trout the career leader for home runs at Safeco Field for a non-Mariner – his 20th at this field to pass Mark Teixeira.
Trout has hit 31 home runs in his career against the Mariners. No other opponent has seen more of those, and he’s also the first to have back-to-back multi-homer games at Safeco Field.
He also chased down anything in the realm of his vicinity in center field, defensively, including a leaping catch at the warning track to send Nelson Cruz back to the dugout.
“We saw it again tonight – Mr. Trout,” Servais said. “He’s given me and a bunch of our pitching coaches … he’s really tough to pitch to. Some of the pitches he hit out tonight were kind of where you want to throw them and he still does damage.
“I think one of the guys on the bench said, ‘Skip, I could go back to high school right now and not put up the numbers he’s putting up in this league.’ He’s on one of those runs and he’s certainly done some damage in this park recently.”
But, as these 2018 Mariners do, they had answers.
Ryon Healy homered for the second consecutive game with his solo shot in the sixth. He followed his next at-bat in the eighth with another solo homer to push the Mariners’ lead to 6-3.
These two teams have combined for 12 home runs in two games this series.
But maybe the kicker was the first run not to come on a long ball.
Dee Gordon had a base hit for the third time in the game – after entering the game 0-for-hit-last-16 – to lead off the seventh inning and Jean Segura followed with a double the other way for an insurance run in the bottom of the seventh, ensuring that the Angels would need more than another Trout bomb to come back.
But Haniger, one they call “Hanimal,” set the tone.
Mitch Haniger has been one-man wrecking crew tonight. pic.twitter.com/4CI0z95Rzk— Mariners (@Mariners) June 13, 2018
Haniger roped a solo home run over Trout’s head in center field in the bottom of the first inning. That staked the Mariners to a 1-0 lead.
Then Trout tied it with a solo shot in the top of the fifth inning, golfing a slider on the bottom outside corner and pulling it over the left-field wall.
Then Haniger, again.
He followed with a two-run blast in the fifth inning and the Mariners never trailed again, despite Trout’s two-run homer in the seventh.
A few takeaways:
Throw and tag
This Mitch Haniger Create-A-Player is real nice. pic.twitter.com/dJFAtjTrdK— Mariners (@Mariners) June 13, 2018
No play was more jaw-dropping than the out to get Valbuena at second base.
Valbuena flipped his bat out of the batter’s box and charged hard past first base with Haniger chasing the ball into the corner.
“Luckily I got a really good bounce off the bottom of the wall,” Haniger said. “I was hoping it would hit that cement piece at the bottom and it bounced right up to me.”
His throw was soaring high but Jean Segura reached up and caught it, only to have his back to Valbuena nearing second base.
So he went behind his back for the tag.
Ever seen anything like that?
“No,” Haniger said. “Not that I can remember. That was pretty cool.”
Pitcher Mike Leake spent a few extra seconds hanging his arm in the air and pointing toward Haniger.
“Those plays don’t happen every day,” Leake said. “That was super exiting.”
Home Run Derby
This is the first time in MLB history that a team has gone back-to-back games with multi-home run players on both teams, according to STATS.
Nelson Cruz hit two home runs in Monday’s win over the Angels, with Mike Trout also hitting two home runs. Then Mitch Haniger hit two home runs on Tuesday, so did Ryon Healy and so did Trout, again.
Add Albert Pujols’ home run on Monday and Healy having homered for the second consecutive game and that’s 12 homers in two games between these two teams – from just five players.
Trout became the first players to have multiple home runs in back-to-back games at Safeco Field.
Dee Gordon entered Tuesday without a hit in his previous 16 at-bats.
Then he had three hits in four at-bats and scored from second base on Jean Segura’s double in the seventh inning.
Gordon apparently was in the batting cage early Tuesday trying to find his swing.
“Nice to see Dee Gordon get it going again,” Servais said. “We hadn’t seen that in a while. I know he was in early today and made a few adjustments and certainly took it into the game.”
In his previous 11 games since returning from the disabled list with a fractured toe that hasn’t fully healed, Gordon had hit .156 entering Tuesday’s game. He was hitting .304 in 43 games before that.
Play of the game
How do you choose?
Mitch Haniger supplied a few contenders with his throw from the right-field corner to get Valbuena. That was the flashiest.
But his opposite-field home run on a 3-1 pitch in the fifth inning gave the Mariners a 3-1 lead that they never let up. It was his second career game with multiple home runs and he’s returned to a tie for the team lead with 15 homers, alongside Nelson Cruz, who hit two homers on Monday.
Another “how do you choose?”
Haniger’s two homers pushed him to 50 RBI for the season, the most he’s had in any season and we’re just over 40 percent through the 2018 season.
Haniger is one of three players in the major leagues with at least 15 home runs and 50 RBI, alongside the Red Sox J.D. Martinez and the Orioles’ Manny Machado.
But Mike Trout had a night, too, going 3-for-5 with two home runs (for the second consecutive game) and three RBI. He was left in the batter’s box in the Mariners’ 5-3 win on Monday but Edwin Diaz struck him out in the top of the ninth for the final out on Tuesday.
Edwin Diaz now has 25 saves through 67 games. He’s on pace for 60 saves.
That would be something. Only one other player in MLB history has at least 60 saves in a season, with the Angels’ Francisco Rodriguez setting the single-season record with 62 saves in 2008. Fernando Rodney holds the Mariners’ record with 48 saves (2014).
He struck out two of the three batters he faced in the ninth, including Trout, to lower his season ERA to 2.50.
Mariners starter Mike Leake lasted six innings and allowed just a solo shot from Trout and struck out four.
The Mariners are 7-0 in Leake’s past seven starts.
“I like watching him pitch, I really do,” Servais said of Leake. “Every time he takes the mound I like our chances. I don’t care who we are playing. I know he’s going to figure out a way to keep us in the ball game and that’s what he does.”
Nelson Cruz hit two home runs on Monday, so did Mike Trout. Then Haniger hit two homers on Tuesday and Trout followed with two more.
Ryon Healy wanted in on that.
“I figured I should join the party,” Healy said. “Because those guys make it look easy. Nice company to be in, too.
Actually, of all those players, only Trout has more homers than Healy over the past two games. Healy also homered in Monday’s win.
TJ Cotterill: 253-597-8677