SEATTLE – Justin Smoak veered onto the outfield grass after touching second, and began to sprint.
A mob of teammates were after him, with a distinct speed advantage over the lumbering Smoak.
“Think it’s the fastest I’ve ran all year,” Smoak said.
Smoak was on the move to avoid a celebratory pummeling after his one-out single in the bottom of the ninth scored pinch-runner Munenori Kawasaki from second, when the throw home hit Kawasaki in the back, giving the Mariners a 2-1 win over the San Francisco Giants on Sunday in front of 40,603, the second-largest crowd of the season.
Mariners closer Tom Wilhelmsen took over in the ninth and found trouble before Smoak’s hit.
Wilhelmsen walked Pablo Sandoval on four pitches to load the bases with one out, bringing the National League’s leading hitter coming into Sunday, Melky Cabrera, to the plate. Wilhelmsen struck him out on three pitches.
Wilhelmsen (3-1) then got pinch-hitter Nate Schierholtz to ground out to second to end his most pressure-filled outing since recording his first career save June 5.
“Holy cow,” Wilhelmsen said. “Got pretty intense there for a little but, huh?”
That allowed the opportunity for Smoak. San Francisco reliever Sergio Romo (2-1) gave up back-to-back singles to Kyle Seager and Jesus Montero to open the ninth before being replaced by Javier Lopez. After pinch-hitter Michael Saunders failed to bunt the runners over, Smoak lined the game-winning single to left.
A tense ninth inning finally settled what starters Madison Bumgarner and Felix Hernandez could not. Both were dominant.
Bumgarner allowed just three hits in his eight innings. He struck out four and walked one, retiring 18 consecutive batters at one point.
Hernandez threw seven innings, allowed one run, struck out seven and walked one.
Sunday started with a surprise for him. His wife, Sandra, ordered a banner to be flown behind a plane around the park that read, “King 34 you are the best dad ever. We (love) you.”
It took three teammates to break his routine and convince Hernandez to step out to the dugout early, so he could see the surprise.
“I almost cried,” Hernandez said. “I was not going to cry because those guys are here. They’re going to talk bad about me.”