SEATTLE — No one was blaming Ryan Langerhans for packing a week’s worth of action into a single game.
After all, it had been an entire week since the bench-warming Langerhans last had a chance to start for the Mariners. And so, his exploits both at the plate, on the basepaths and in the field Sunday afternoon not only contributing to a 2-1 victory over the Texas Rangers, but might have to sustain the backup outfielder for some time to come.
Langerhans sure didn’t seem rusty, reaching base three times, including a seventh-inning triple that led to the decisive run of the game.
“I was trying to be pretty aggressive,” Langerhans said. “I was just fortunate enough to get into some good counts to hit in. I’m always up there looking to hit.”
And hit the ball he did, drilling it to the right field corner off Texas starter Tommy Hunter to lead off the seventh. Josh Wilson followed with a run-scoring single and that would prove enough for the Mariners to win their first series in a month.
Langerhans had helped wear Hunter down by working a 12-pitch walk against him in the fifth inning. The only reason the game was still tied in the seventh was also because of Langerhans, who threw out Vladimir Guerrero at second base in the sixth inning after Guerrero tried to stretch a single into a double.
The crowd of 20,764 spectators at Safeco Field had barely settled down from cheering that play when Nelson Cruz launched the very next pitch from Doug Fister over the left-field wall to open the scoring. But instead of a 2-0 lead had Guerrero still been on base, it was just a 1-0 game at that point and the Mariners quickly tied it in the bottom of the inning.
Chone Figgins singled off the second-base bag, then scored all the way from first on a double to left by Franklin Gutierrez. The play at the plate was close and Figgins thought he got his hand on it when he slid around catcher Matt Treanor.
But as Figgins stood up, he noticed plate umpire Gary Cederstrom had yet to make a call. The ball had rolled a few feet away from Treanor by that point and he lumbered slowly over to pick it up, unaware the play was still live.
An alert Figgins quickly hustled back, stepped on the plate and got the “safe” call from Cederstrom before Treanor could figure it all out.
“I’ve never missed it like that before,” Figgins said, adding he’d yet to see a video replay. “So, I thought I had it. But then, I saw he wasn’t giving me a call.”
Fortunately for the Mariners, they got this one.
Fister had kept the game close to that point by somehow giving up just the lone run despite eight hits allowed in the first six innings. Texas had multiple runners in the third and fifth without scoring, then notched four hits—including the Cruz homer—in the sixth while coming away with just a run.
“I thought Fister was outstanding today at shutting innings down,” Mariners manager Daren Brown said. “He gave up some hits. But I always like to think hits don’t beat you. Runs beat you.”
Fister said he slowed things down and focused on keeping his pitches low in the strike zone when he needed them most. But he also credited the plays behind him, including a catch at the wall by Michael Saunders and a play at third by Jose Lopez, who threw the lead runner out at home on a hard grounder.
There was also the Langerhans play on Guerrero.
“The ball actually got me a little turned around,” Langerhans said of the line drive over his head. “I was hoping to be able to catch it. But he hit it and actually backspun it pretty good. But I knew if I was able to get to it quick, I might have a shot at him.”
And if Langerhans gets back in a game before next weekend, he might be sharp enough to have a shot at the catch itself one of these days. For now, the Mariners will take whatever he decides to provide them.