NEW YORK — A team that has specialized in losing games it could have won surprised the New York Yankees on Saturday, as the Seattle Mariners won a game they had every opportunity to lose.
All it took was 13 innings. And some great relief pitching. And six RBIs from Dan Wilson.
Given that mix, the Mariners held off the Yankees – then blew them out in 13 innings, 13-7, to snap a six-game losing streak.
“We got pitching, hitting and defense – all the stuff we haven’t had,” manager Bob Melvin said. “And we got it late in the game, after we’d lost a lead.”
Technically, Melvin wasn’t around to see it – he was ejected in the third inning while trying to keep starting pitcher Jamie Moyer and catcher Wilson in the game.
Still, over the final 11 innings, acting manager Rene Lachemann kept his ears tuned to the tunnel behind the visiting dugout, where it’s possible Melvin was lurking.
How should they have lost this game? Let the Mariners count the ways:
•Moyer couldn’t get a call on the inside or outside corners and, forced to throw strikes over the heart of the plate, gave up a career high four home runs in 5 1/3 innings – and he still left with a lead.
•Rookie J.J. Putz inherited a tie game in the ninth and found himself with the potential winning run on third base, no one out – and the top of the Yankees’ lineup awaiting him. He got out of it.
•Closer Eddie Guardado picked up the same tie game in the 12th inning and wound up with runners on second and third base with one out. He pitched out of it – in part because second baseman Jolbert Cabrera threw Alex Rodriguez out at the plate. How did Guardado get out of the inning? “I’m still trying to figure that out,” he joked afterward.
The Mariners staked Moyer to leads of 4-0 and 7-4, but New York clubbed its way to a tie with home runs from Gary Sheffield, Hideki Matsui, Bernie Williams and two from A-Rod.
Seattle never did hit one out Saturday, but the Mariners’ 15 hits were one better than New York’s total – and eventually, they got them when it mattered most.
For those who thought the Seattle bullpen was the only one in the league that couldn’t keep hitters off base, consider this: Yankees pitchers hit three Mariners batters and walked eight others – five intentionally. In the ninth, 11th and 12th innings, manager Joe Torre ordered Edgar Martinez intentionally walked to set up a force play and get to third baseman Scott Spiezio. Twice, it worked.
“Hey, I wasn’t the only guy it worked against,” Spiezio argued afterward, laughing. “We walked Bernie Williams intentionally to get to A-Rod once – and he made an out.”
No matter, because by the 13th inning, Spiezio had had more than enough humility.
Ramon Santiago opened the rally with a double, and Ichiro Suzuki was intentionally walked. Randy Winn bunted both runners along, and Martinez was intentionally walked to load the bases and set up a double play. Spiezio doubled off the center-field wall for two runs and a 9-7 lead.
Gabe White then lost the strike zone – remember Minnesota, Mariners fans? – and walked Cabrera, then hit Raul Ibanez to force home an insurance run. For the second time in the game, Wilson doubled home three runs.
“A huge hit, he had two huge hits for us,” Melvin said. “We kept after it on a long, hot afternoon,” Wilson said. “We got a lot of big hits. We got a lot of big pitches. We just played a good game.”
And won it – which may have been the biggest surprise.
“Losing has been old for quite awhile now,” Spiezio said.A bullpen taxed by work all week came into the game a bit tired, then was asked to pitch the final 8 2/3 innings. In that span, relievers allowed New York one run – a game-tying homer by Williams off Shigetoshi Hasegawa in the seventh.
While the Yankees had the bigger names to use in relief – Paul Quantrill, Tom Gordon and Mariano Rivera – the Mariners stayed even with Mike Myers, Putz, Julio Mateo and Guardado.