SEATTLE – In the moments after a loss Wednesday afternoon in which the Seattle Mariners handed the game away in the ninth inning, a tired looking Scott Servais tried to find some level of optimism about his exhausted team.
“We’re still playing good baseball,” he said, repeating that sentiment again in his remarks.
But his players didn’t provide any evidence to further that statement over the next game and a half. A disappointing loss to the Detroit Tigers Thursday night was being followed by a forgettable showing Friday night in a front a crowd of 34,932 packed into Safeco Field.
For six innings, the Mariners’ bats looked helpless against Tigers starter Michael Fulmer. Meanwhile, Seattle’s starter Felix Hernandez was dealing with wandering command, falling behind in counts and four runs scored off him.
And then it all changed in the seventh inning.
The Mariners scored five runs in the frame, turning a four-run deficit into an eventual and unlikely 5-4 victory.
It was their 11th comeback win of the season and their fifth in a game in which they were trailing after the sixth inning. They improved to 25-19 this season.
It was a rally that had showed no signs of occurring against Fulmer. The right-hander was dealing through six innings, allowing just two hits with seven strikeouts and roughly two hard-hit balls in play.
But in the seventh, with a 4-0 lead, his command disappeared and his outing fell apart. He walked Nelson Cruz and Kyle Seager to start the inning. He later gave up a one-out, two-run single to Ben Gamel on a ground ball up the middle.
Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire went to his bullpen, but it offered no relief. Right-hander Buck Farmer came in and walked the two batters he faced to load the bases. Gardenhire went to a situational after that. Lefty Daniel Stumpf gave up a sacrifice fly to Dee Gordon that cut the lead to 4-3.
Right-hander Warwick Saupold was brought in to face the upcoming right-handed hitters. He couldn’t hold the lead. Jean Segura bounced a single up the middle to score catcher Mike Zunino and tie the score and Mitch Haniger followed with a double to left field to score Heredia for the lead.
But even with all the elation from the cheering fans and the celebrating coming from the Mariners’ dugout, there was still anxiety looming. The Mariners had to get through the eighth inning, which had become a prolonged nightmare over the last week.
With Nick Vincent unavailable to due to workload, Servais turned to his original eighth-inning man, Juan Nicasio, to protect the one-run lead.
Nicasio worked a 1-2-3 inning, surviving a pair of line drives to the outfield that were tracked down by Heredia and Haniger with ease.
Diaz picked up his 15th save in the ninth, getting some help from Zunino, who erased a leadoff single with a perfect throw to second on a stolen-base attempt.
Hernandez gave the Mariners a mediocre outing. It might have been better if not for a dreadful first inning in which he gave up three runs after retiring the first two batters. He still managed to work six innings, allowing another unearned run to score, while striking out four and walking three.
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