ANAHEIM, Calif. – Franklin Gutierrez still isn’t quite sure how he made the fifth-inning, wall-crashing catch that might have saved the Seattle Mariners this game.
Nor is he too certain whether it was his head, shoulder or wrist that hit the wall first. About the only thing he knew after a late outburst helped the Mariners throttle the Los Angeles Angels 9-4 on Thursday is that the dizziness that knocked him from the game had gone away an hour or so later.
That’s good news for fans of a Mariners team who have grown accustomed to seeing Gutierrez miss games because of injury and illness about as often as he makes these run-saving catches.
“I don’t even know how I caught that ball,” Gutierrez said. “I just ran hard like I always do and I’m just really glad I caught that ball because if not, they could have scored some runs.”
Indeed, it was still just a 3-2 lead for Seattle at that point with Chris Iannetta on first base and none out when Mike Trout blistered a line drive to the gap. A sprinting Gutierrez caught it, then went down a split-second later in a heap after running into the wall.
A stunned Iannetta, who had already rounded second when the catch was made, had to hit the brakes – slipping in the process – and beat a hasty retreat back to first. Gutierrez had the presence of mind to flip the ball to right fielder Casper Wells, who fired it back in to the cutoff man, who nearly nabbed Iannetta.
“You don’t think much at that moment, you just react to whatever happens,” Gutierrez said. “As soon as I caught the ball, my instant reaction was to try to toss the ball to Casper, because I couldn’t get up.”
If the ball hadn’t been caught, Trout would likely have been standing on third with a run-scoring triple in a tie game with nobody out.
Instead, the Angels and 37,377 fans at Angel Stadium in the team’s final regular-season home game were left to ponder what might have been.
Mariners starter Hisashi Iwakuma survived that frame, then a leadoff double by Kendrys Morales in the sixth before collecting the win.
Seattle blew it open with four runs in the seventh, starting when Trayvon Robinson – who entered in the sixth after Gutierrez left the game – drew a bases-loaded walk off Garrett Richards.
Kyle Seager followed with a run-scoring single, Jesus Montero hit a sacrifice fly and then John Jaso – who earlier hit a two-run homer off Angels starter Dan Haren – doubled to make it a 7-2 game.
The teams traded runs from there as the Angels blew a glorious opportunity to close to within a game of Oakland in the race for the second wild-card spot.