Seattle Mariners

Mitch Haniger shines, Robinson Cano clutch as Mariners complete four-run rally over Angels

Los Angeles Angels’ Mike Trout, left, is tagged out by Seattle Mariners catcher Mike Zunino as he tries to score on a single hit by Shohei Ohtani during the sixth inning of a baseball game, Saturday, Sept. 15, 2018, in Anaheim, Calif. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
Los Angeles Angels’ Mike Trout, left, is tagged out by Seattle Mariners catcher Mike Zunino as he tries to score on a single hit by Shohei Ohtani during the sixth inning of a baseball game, Saturday, Sept. 15, 2018, in Anaheim, Calif. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong) AP

It seemed it might be the same song for the Seattle Mariners and their inability to drive in runs, especially on a night like this when they were 2-for-13 with runners in scoring position until two outs in the top of the eighth inning.

Robinson Cano changed the station.

He’s now tied with Hall of Famers Cap Anson and Frank Robinson on MLB’s career doubles list, though he was just short of a grand slam when he launched a three-run two-bagger to erase the Mariners’ once four-run deficit in a 6-5 victory over the Los Angeles Angels on Saturday in Anaheim.

Cano got a slider right down the middle of the plate and responded in kind after Jean Segura drew a walk with Denard Span and Kristopher Negron on base.

“You always dream of coming through in a big situation like that and help the team get the job done,” Cano told reporters afterward. ‘But it’s not about my result, it’s a team result. It’s about winning. So I would say that was a great at-bat.”

That double was also a remedy for the Mariners’ missed-chance fourth inning, when they stranded the bases loaded with no outs.

Edwin Diaz earned another save, despite giving up a homer to Justin Upton in the bottom of the ninth inning. That’s his 55th save of the season, which extended his club record single-season mark.

There’s only been two closes with more than 55 saves in a season – the White Sox’s Bobby Thigpen (1990) had 57 and the Angels’ Francisco Rodriguez (2008) had 62. Diaz is tied for third-most saves in a season in MLB history alongside Eric Gagne (2003) and John Smoltz (2002).

But this Mariners (82-66) win, their third in a row over Los Angeles, should not go without knowing what Mitch Haniger did, hitting a home run in the fourth inning and saving at least three runs defensively in the fifth when he threw out Mike Trout at the plate and robbed Justin Upton of a two-run home run with a leaping catch at the wall in right field.

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-partner="tweetdeck"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Absolute unit. <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/TrueToTheBlue?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#TrueToTheBlue</a> <a href="https://t.co/DkkKCBXeFv">pic.twitter.com/DkkKCBXeFv</a></p>&mdash; Seattle Mariners (@Mariners) <a href="https://twitter.com/Mariners/status/1041166421634383873?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">September 16, 2018</a></blockquote> <script async src="https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>

Seattle is 7 1/2 games behind the Oakland Athletics for the American League’s final wild card with 14 games to play.

The win also guaranteed the Mariners of a winning record for the second time in manager Scott Servais’ three years here.

“The goal was not to have a winning season,” Servais said. “The goal was to get to the playoffs and extend our season.

“We had the bumpy road there for a while. I wish we would have had this consistent offense throughout the second half. We just haven’t.”

This was the Mariners third consecutive game scoring at least five runs – a stretch that’s been duplicated just two other times since the All-Star break.

Let’s reset.

It’s a wonder how the baseball-following world on social media didn’t basically self-destruct on itself in the bottom of the first inning.

Back-to-back home runs from Mike Trout and Babe Ruth? That would probably do it. Trout obliterated a first-pitch fastball from Erasmo Ramirez for his 34th homer this season and Shohei Ohtani (the closest thing to Ruth since Ruth played) followed by continuing to hurt the Mariners since he chose the Angels over them this offseason coming from Japan.

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-partner="tweetdeck"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">It finally happened. <br><br>Trout &amp; Ohtani, back-to-back! <a href="https://t.co/wSDPZimx1P">pic.twitter.com/wSDPZimx1P</a></p>&mdash; MLB (@MLB) <a href="https://twitter.com/MLB/status/1041139659663921152?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">September 16, 2018</a></blockquote> <script async src="https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>

That was Ohtani’s 20th home run this season. And he was also 4-2 with a 3.31 ERA as a pitcher with 63 strikeouts in 51 2/3 innings before he learned he’d need Tommy John surgery. So he’s batting despite a busted ulnar collateral ligament.

The only players in MLB history with at least 20 home runs at the plate and multiple wins on the mound in a season? Babe Ruth (1919, 1921) and Shohei Ohtani (2018).

So all that and the Angels had a quick 3-0 lead.

Ramirez would last four innings, but not before offering another solo homer in the bottom of the fourth inning to Upton, his first of two homers, for a 4-0 Mariners deficit.

“Erasmo didn’t have it,” Servais said. “The cutter has been his key pitch recently. The command of it was kind of loopy. There were a lot of balls in the middle of the plate.”

But, as has plagued the Mariners all season, they weren’t able to cash in on a prime scoring opportunity.

Cano walked to lead off the fourth inning, Nelson Cruz got a single to bloop into right field and Ryon Healy bunted for a base hit (yes, that Ryon Healy ... bunting) to load the bags for Mike Zunino.

Zunino got a 3-1 count and popped a sky-high infield fly and Cameron Maybin grounded into a double play to ensure no Mariners runs.

But if Trout, Ohtani and Upton had homers, made sense that it was Kristopher Negron’s turn.

Negron, who was acquired for cash from the Diamondbacks last month, hit his first homer with the Mariners on a rope over the left-field wall to get the Mariners on the board in the fifth. Haniger followed two batters later with a 443-foot solo homer to cut it to 4-2.

Negron plated another Mariners run when his infield chopper made its way into left field to score Healy from second in the top of the sixth. Negron reached base four times starting for Kyle Seager at third base.

“As we get to see Kris Negron play a little more, we get to figure out more about his tool set,” Servais said. “He had good at-bats all night and he can run the bases, you saw him steal. Nice to have guys contribute like that when they come off the bench.”

Let’s get to it. Three takeaways:

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-partner="tweetdeck"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">&quot;Nah.&quot; -- <a href="https://twitter.com/M_Hanny17?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@M_Hanny17</a>, probably. <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/TrueToTheBlue?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#TrueToTheBlue</a> <a href="https://t.co/aCUkvFU5dt">pic.twitter.com/aCUkvFU5dt</a></p>&mdash; Seattle Mariners (@Mariners) <a href="https://twitter.com/Mariners/status/1041161505943633920?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">September 16, 2018</a></blockquote> <script async src="https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>

Haniger Helper

So Mitch Haniger crushed a 443-foot home run in the fifth inning.

And, according to MLB’s Statcast, that’s the farthest Haniger’s ever hit a home run in his three big-league seasons, surpassing one he hit 441 feet last month.

He followed an inning later by saving at least three runs defensively.

Haniger charged on a single his way into right field from Shohei Ohtani in the bottom of the sixth inning and Mike Trout charged hard to home from second base. Haniger’s throw was on a line to Mike Zunino at the plate who just got a piece of Trout’s jersey on his sweeping tag. Trout was originally ruled safe until it was overturned on replay review.

Haniger is tied for the American League lead in outfield assists with 11, right alongside the Red Sox’s Andrew Benintendi.

One batter later Justin Upton thought he had his second homer of the game. Instead, Haniger leaped at the wall and brought it back for the second out.

Festa fiesta

Matt Festa recorded his first strikeout of his MLB career when he got Kaleb Cowart chasing to lead off the bottom of the fifth inning.

The 25-year-old rookie has spent most of the season with Double-A Arkansas after he was drafted in the seventh round in the 2016 draft by the Mariners out of East Stroudsburg University of Pennsylvania.

In four appearances for the Mariners this season, Festa has allowed one run in 5 1/3 innings. He tossed two scoreless, but eventful, innings on Saturday.

Crisp Kris

Kristopher Negron reached base four times, including his first home runs with the Mariners, on a day he started at third base in Kyle Seager’s place.

The 32-year-old hadn’t hit a big-league homer since 2014 with the Cincinnati Reds, but his solo shot in the fifth gave the Mariners their first run. He had one hit in five at-bats since joining the Mariners until he added three more on Saturday.

Negron struck out in the top of the eighth but reached first anyway because of a wild pitch. Then he stole second to get the tying run in scoring position. He later scored on Robinson Cano’s go-ahead three-run double.

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-partner="tweetdeck"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Don&#39;t cha know? <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/TrueToTheBlue?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#TrueToTheBlue</a> <a href="https://t.co/tLrXUA1pAC">pic.twitter.com/tLrXUA1pAC</a></p>&mdash; Seattle Mariners (@Mariners) <a href="https://twitter.com/Mariners/status/1041191430176362496?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">September 16, 2018</a></blockquote> <script async src="https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>

Play of the game

The Mariners scored three runs on one hit in the eighth inning.

One timely hit.

Robinson Cano got ahold of a mistake slider in the middle of the plate and almost sent it out of the yard. Instead he got a three-run double to give the Mariners a 6-4 lead in the top of the eighth inning.

That double tied Cano with Hall of Famers Cap Anson and Frank Robinson for 42nd on MLB’s career doubles list, No. 528 for his career.

Top batter

Kristopher Negron finally made himself known in Seattle. The 32-year-old utility player went 3-for-4 with a solo home run and he reached base all four plate appearances.

The homer was his first with the Mariners. He had one hit since the Mariners acquired him in a trade for cash with the Diamondbacks last month.

Negron also drove in a run with a base hit in the sixth inning and he stole a base after he struck out and reached on a wild pitch in the eighth.

Mitch Haniger and Robinson Cano both went 2-for-5 and combined for four RBI.

Top pitcher

Easy to go with Edwin Diaz, who earned his 55th save, which is tied for the third most in a season in major league history alongside John Smoltz and Eric Gagne, and trails only the 57 saves of Bobby Thigpen and 62 saves of Francisco Rodriguez.

Though, he did allow a solo homer to Justin Upton, who seems to do that often against Diaz.

But how about the rookie Matt Festa, who pitched two scoreless innings of relief after Erasmo Ramirez was pulled after four innings and four runs allowed.

Quotable

Even Robinson Cano could appreciate what closer Edwin Diaz is accomplishing.

“Of course – especially for a guy in his second full season,” Cano said. “What he’s accomplished is amazing. For me, it means a lot because it tells you how hard he’s worked and what he did this offseason and during the season to help us win games.”

TJ Cotterill: 253-597-8677; Twitter: @TJCotterill

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