SEATTLE – Six days into his return from a two-week hiatus for mental-health counseling, Milton Bradley created another new twist in his wild first season in Seattle.
An unprecedented, joyous dugout victory lap. In the middle of a game.
Bradley homered, drove in the go-ahead run in the eighth inning with a single off Justin Verlander then ran into the dugout during a pitching change for a unique celebration as the Mariners rallied past the Detroit Tigers 5-3 on Tuesday night.
“I was full of joy the whole day,” said the mercurial, newsmaking slugger, who remains in counseling for emotional issues that he said had him thinking “unpleasant thoughts” – such as understanding why some people commit suicide.
How long has it been since he’s been so happy?
“A while,” the 32-year-old said with a grin one week after his return from the restricted list. “Probably the ’06 playoffs (when he hit .500 with two homers against the Tigers in the A.L. Championship Series).”
His first home run since April 13 in the first inning gave Seattle a 2-0 lead. In the dugout, injured shortstop Jack Wilson jubilantly wrapped his arms around the smiling slugger and announced “He’s back!”
Then came two strikeouts.
Uh-oh. When he struck out twice in a close game at home two weeks ago, he lost it. Manager Don Wakamatsu saw he was unfit to play and removed him from the game. Bradley left the dugout, the clubhouse, then the stadium while the game continued. The next day, he asked Wakamatsu and general manager Jack Zduriencik for help with the battle he was losing with his emotions.
This time, he followed the two whiffs with the most relieving of singles, his declaration that he is indeed back inside what he calls the best environment he’s ever had as a professional.
“I mean, it helps when you go deep on the first pitch. You can live with a couple strikeouts then,” he said.
Shawn Kelley (3-0) pitched the eighth before David Aardsma finished for his 10th save in 12 chances. It was just his second save of May, as the Mariners improved to 6-16 this month.
Chone Figgins, hitting .195, doubled off Verlander (5-3) with one out in the eighth. Franklin Gutierrez, who had homered in the sixth to tie the game at 3, walked.
Bradley then fouled a 98 mph fastball from Verlander straight back before he golfed the fourth change-up of the at-bat into right field.
“How he did that, I don’t know,” Verlander said.
Figgins slid home past the swipe tag of catcher Alex Avila and flashed a huge smile. Bradley pounded his hands together twice as the crowd of 20,920 roared.
During the ensuing pitching change, the one-of-a-kind slugger ran into Seattle’s dugout and went down a bench row of giddy teammates who slapped his back and hands before he returned to first.
Asked if he’d ever seen that before, Wakamatsu shook his head, smiled again and said, “No – but I hope to see that a lot more.”