ARLINGTON, Texas — When the Mariners trailed by 10 runs Thursday night in San Diego, manager Scott Servais did something he fundamentally opposes. He told a position player to warm up for a possible relief appearance.
Utilityman Shawn O’Malley began moving equipment in the indoor cages at Petco Park to get a feel for throwing off a mound and to try to throw a curve.
"Actually, I think that was my best pitch," O’Malley said. "I don’t know why. Maybe it’s because the cage was low, and I had to get extended through it. But it felt good. I felt confident that if I went in there, I could throw it for strikes.
"I felt it was sharp. It was still, probably, a high school-level curveball, but to me it was nasty."
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Outfielder Stefen Romero was also on Servais’ list, although he wasn’t told to heat up. A day later, the possibility that he could have pitched Thursday stunned Romero.
"I guess I could have thrown meatballs up there," Romero said.
It wasn’t necessary. The Mariners erased a 12-2 deficit by scoring five runs in the sixth inning and nine more in the seventh. Tellingly, perhaps, it was O’Malley and Romero who drove in the tying and go-ahead runs with RBI singles.
"(Thursday) night’s game went from pitching a position player to running your (back-end) guys out there," Servais said. "That’s how crazy that game was last night."
Nick Vincent, Joaquin Benoit and Steve Cishek closed out the 16-13 victory.
O’Malley was left to wonder what might have been.
"I haven’t done it since high school," he said. "I was just trying to figure a way to throw strikes. Just trying to find a way to shorten up. Kind of like when you hit, you try to find the shortest way to the ball.
"I was trying to find the shortest way to the plate and make sure the ball went over it. If I’d gone in, it would have been, `OK, whatever happens, happens. I’m just going to throw the ball over the plate and let the defense take care of it.’"
Instead of gaining a career footnote by pitching, O’Malley now holds the distinction of driving in the go-ahead run in the biggest comeback victory in the Mariners’ 40-year history.
"That was way better," he said. "I think I’d much rather do that."
COMEBACK FOR THE AGES
This comes courtesy of Ryan Hueter of the Mariners Baseball Information Department and offers some perspective on the club’s remarkable comeback from a 10-run deficit in Thursday’s 16-13 victory at San Diego:
The Mariners trailed 12-2 after five innings but scored five runs in the sixth and nine runs in the seventh. It was the largest comeback victory in club history.
What follows is lifted verbatim from the Mariners’ daily notes package for Friday’s series opener at Texas:
***Completed the largest comeback win in club history (previous: 8-run deficit, 9-1, entering the bottom of the 4th inning, in a 11-10 win vs. the Angels on 4/15/96.
***Marked the 21st comeback win in the 141-year history of Major League Baseball in which the winning team overcame a double-digit deficit…the Mariners are just the 7th visiting team in MLB history to overcome a double-digit deficit to win (last: PHI at LAD, 8/21/90...the Phillies trailed 11-1 after 7 innings, but scored 2 in the 8th and 9 in the 9th to win, 12-11). (Elias Sports Bureau)
***First comeback win in the Majors when winning team trailed by 10+ runs after 5 innings since Cleveland defeated Seattle, 15-14, in 11 innings, on August 5, 2001 in Cleveland…first 9-inning comeback win in the Majors when winning team trailed by 10+ after 5 innings since Philadelphia came back from a 11-1 deficit after 7 innings to defeat Los Angeles-NL, 12-11, on August 21, 1990 at Los Angeles.
***Seattle’s 9-run 7th inning marked a club record for runs scored in an inning without an extra-base hit.
***Scored 9 runs with 2 outs in the 7th inning, 2nd-most runs scored with 2 outs in club history, trailing only 10 runs with 2 outs in the 5th on August 30, 2003 vs. Baltimore.
***Since 1974, the Mariners are the only team to have 2 or fewer extra-base hits while overcoming a double-digit deficit to win (Seattle recorded 3 XBH, but only 2 while scoring 14 runs over final 4 innings).
***The Mariners were 11-for-12 with 15 RBI with runners in scoring position…marked Seattle’s highest batting average w/RISP (min. 4 AB w/RISP) in club history (previous: 6-for-7, 5/29/94 at MIL).
***Recorded a club-record 8 RBI by players off the bench (previous: 6 RBI, 9/8/02 at KC)…coming off the bench, the Mariners combined to go 6-for-9 with 5 runs, 1 home run, 8 RBI and 1 BB.
Want more? Here you go: How rare were those seven straight two-out RBI singles Thursday by the Mariners in their nine-run seventh inning at San Diego?
It hasn’t happened since at least 1974, which represents the limits of the Stats Inc. data base. The previous high in that span was six by Texas on June 16, 1980 in the ninth inning of a 6-3 victory at Kansas City.
Servais offered an unexpected reason for choosing to put Dae-Ho Lee and Adam Lind in the starting lineup for only the fourth time in 54 games. Texas started a right-hander, which meant Lee normally would have been on the bench.
But not just any right-hander.
"I just want to see him against Yu Darvish," Servais said. "Everybody in Japan in going to be watching, aren’t they? In Korea, too? It’s going to be great."
Lee was a bright spot in a 7-3 loss. He went 2-for-4 and raised his average to .310.
Double-A Jackson outfielder Tyler O’Neill is the Southern League’s player of the month for May after batting .349 with four home runs, one triple, 13 doubles and 25 RBIs in 28 games.
The last Jackson player to win a monthly award in the Southern League was infielder Nick Franklin in May 2012. O’Neill is batting .335 overall in 52 games with 10 homers and 42 RBIs.
O’Neill, 20, was also cited by Baseball America on its weekly Prospect Hot Sheet, which seeks to identify which of the game’s top prospects at currently performing at a high level. O’Neill was No. 12 on the 20-player ranking.
"O’Neill tightened his strike zone this season," Baseball America reported, "and has thrived in a jump to Double-A. The powerful, right-handed-hitting right fielder has improved his walk and strikeout rates while continuing to drive the ball to all fields."
The promotion watch continues on Jackson right-hander Edwin Diaz, who worked two more scoreless innings Thursday in an 8-4 victory at Tennessee (Cubs).
Diaz, 22, has allowed one unearned run and three hits in 11 2/3 innings over 10 appearances since shifting to the bullpen. He also has 16 strikeouts and two walks.
The Mariners moved Diaz to the bullpen in an effort to accelerate his path to the big leagues. He is generally viewed as the organization’s most advanced pitching prospect.
***First baseman D.J. Peterson extended his hitting streak to 14 games Friday in Jackson’s 2-1 victory at Tennessee.
It was 16 years ago Saturday — June 4, 2000 — that Stan Javier pulled off an memorable defensive play when he robbed a home run from San Diego’s Phil Nevin for the final out in the seventh inning at Safeco Field.
Javier brought the ball back from over the fence before catching it while falling to the ground. The catch was an ESPY’s finalist for play of the year.
The play saved a two-run homer, which proved decisive as the Mariners held on for a 6-4 victory.
Shortstop Ketel Marte is scheduled to complete a four-game rehab assignment Saturday at Triple-A Tacoma. Barring any setbacks, he should be activated Monday and be in the starting lineup that night against Cleveland…center fielder Leonys Martin said he experienced no problems Friday when he ran for the first time since suffering a strained left hamstring on May 26. He is eligible to return June 10 from the disabled list…the Mariners’ 15 comeback victories, through Thursday, were the most among American League clubs and tied with Milwaukee for the most in the majors.
The Mariners and Rangers continue their three-game series at 6:05 p.m. Pacific time Saturday at Globe Life Park in Arlington, Texas.
Right-hander Nathan Karns (5-1 with a 3.43 ERA) will face Texas lefty Martin Perez (3-4, 3.12). The game can be seen on Root Sports Northwest and heard on 710 ESPN.
Bob Dutton: @TNT_Mariners