Mariners Insider Blog

Mariners 6, Tigers 5 (15 innings): Zunino’s sacrifice fly caps comeback

It took 15 innings and two comebacks, but the Mariners celebrated in the end when Mike Zunino (right) delivered a game-winning sacrifice fly.
It took 15 innings and two comebacks, but the Mariners celebrated in the end when Mike Zunino (right) delivered a game-winning sacrifice fly. AP

You really do have to stick around with these Mariners.

No matter how long it takes.

Mike Zunino’s sacrifice fly capped a two-run 15th inning Tuesday night that rallied the Mariners to a remarkable 6-5 victory over the Detroit Tigers at Safeco Field.

The Mariners’ comeback countered Victor Martinez’s leadoff homer in the top of the inning against Ariel Miranda, a starter pressed into duty when the Mariners ran out of relievers.

"We’ve got something really good going on right now," said designated hitter Nelson Cruz, who started the winning rally with a one-out walk against Tigers closer Francisco Rodriguez.

"Hopefully, we can keep it up."

The Mariners have won five in a row and remained 2 1/2 games behind Boston for the American League’s final wild-card slot. It was their 27th comeback victory, and their 12th when trailing by three or more runs.

So, yes, they’re used to drama. Even so, this one will be tough to top.

"Oh, man, that was crazy," said Kyle Seager, who tied the game with a three-run homer in the eighth inning before doing so again with an RBI single in the 15th.

"Every game matters, But right now, playing a team like Detroit, those are big wins."

Cruz walked and went to second on Adam Lind’s single to right. Seager followed with a slicing single to left that scored Cruz.

When left fielder Justin Upton misplayed the ball — the game’s only error — Lind reached third and Seager advanced to second, which lessened the double-play possibility.

Lind scored the winning run on Zunino’s sacrifice fly to center by easily beating an off-line throw from Tyler Collins. So ended the Mariners’ longest game of the year.

"For me," Zunino said, "I just wanted to see the ball up and get on top of it. I didn’t want to get under it and pop it straight up."

The victory went to Miranda — the first of his big-league career. He was slotted to start Friday night at Oakland, but the Mariners had few alternatives after exhausting their bullpen.

The Tigers had also used a starter, Matt Boyd, in the 14th inning, and he was in line for the victory before the Mariners rallied against Rodriguez.

"Give them credit," Detroit manager Brad Ausmus said, "they fought back to get us at the back of our bullpen. And (Justin) Wilson and Rodriguez, their hitters got the jump on them."

It was the Mariners’ seventh walk-off victory over the season and extended their winning streak to a season-best five games. It also ensures they’ll need some fresh arms before Wednesday’s series finale against the Tigers.

"It says a lot about our team," manager Scott Servais said. "We hang in there and hang in there. When it looked its bleakest, we somehow pulled it out."

Detroit nearly won the game in the 14th inning.

Casey McGehee led off with a single to right against Tom Wilhelmsen, the Mariners’ final available reliever. McGehee moved to second on Collins’ one-out single into center before a walk to Ian Kinsler loaded the bases.

But Wilhelmsen struck out Jose Iglesias and then stranded all three runners by retiring Miguel Cabrera on a fly to right. It was a big missed chance that mirrored the Mariners’ frustration earlier in the game in a similar situation.

Seager had come up empty in his two earlier at-bats. He popped to short center with one out and a runner at third base in the fourth inning, He then struck out on three pitches with one out and the bases loaded in the sixth.

Initial atonement came on a first-pitch swing in the eighth inning when he drove a cutter from Justin Wilson into a right-field seats for his 21st homer of the season.

Before then, the Mariners spent most the night squandering chances.

"If we’d executed a little bit better," Seager said, "if I’d executed a little bit better, we wouldn’t have had to go as long as we did. It worked out in the end. It was an unbelievably good win for us."

The biggest miss came when, trailing 4-1 in the sixth inning, they loaded the bases with no outs on singles by Franklin Gutierrez, Cano and Cruz.

That finished Detroit starter Daniel Norris.

When the Tigers summoned right-handed reliever Alex Wilson, the Mariners countered by sending up Lind as a pinch-hitter for Dae-Ho Lee.

Lind turned on Alex Wilson’s first pitch and sent it deep — but just foul — to right field. Lind then flied out to short left. The runners had to hold.

That was as close as the Mariners came to scoring that inning.

Seager struck out on three pitches; the third was a fastball not close to the outside edge of the plate. Pinch-hitter Seth Smith struck out on a full-count pitch that was down-and-away and out of the strike zone.

Mariners starter Wade LeBlanc was in trouble, literally, from his first pitch, which Kinsler yanked into the left-field corner for a double. Iglesias followed by lining a single into center that moved Kinsler to third.

Cabrera and Victor Martinez then pulled RBI singles to left for a 2-0 lead before LeBlanc finally recorded an out.

LeBlanc gave up 10 hits and three walks in five innings — so limiting the damage to four runs required some escapability skills. He gave up leadoff homers to Cabrera in the third inning and J.D. Martinez in the fifth.

PLAY OF THE GAME: Kyle Seager erased the frustration of two disappointing at-bats with runners in scoring position by hitting a three-run homer in the eighth inning. It also erased a 4-1 deficit.

PLUS: Reliever Nick Vincent pitched a one-two-three sixth inning on12 pitches in his first appearance since June 26. He was activated Sunday after missing 32 games because of a muscle strain in his middle back…left fielder Guillermo Heredia had three hits…Robinson Cano had three hits…Mike Zunino had his first walk-off RBI in more than three years. His only other on was June 28, 2013 against the Chicago White Sox.

MINUS: The Mariners could and probably should have won the game in regulation. Those missed opportunities in the fourth and sixth innings…Leonys Martin struck out five times.

STAT PACK: Nelson Cruz’s triple in the fourth inning was the 12th of his 12-year career and his first since April 28, 2015 at Texas.

QUOTABLE: The Mariners got nine scoreless innings from their six relievers before turning to starter Ariel Miranda in the 15th inning.

"The job that our bullpen did…," manager Scott Servais said. "A lot of guys without a lot of rest took the ball tonight and really sucked it up and performed."

SHORT HOPS: Some good news down on the farm. Four pitchers at Lo-A Clinton combined on a no-hitter in a 2-0 victory over Beloit (Athletics). Pedro Vasquez and Joey Strain each pitched three innings before Lukas Schiraldi worked two and Matt Walker closed it out…the Mariners are 7-7 in extra-inning games and 19-21 in one-run games.

Bob Dutton: @TNT_Mariners