SEATTLE – The Seattle Mariners spent the better part of two days – and nearly two nights, it was starting to seem – searching for the big hit that would beat the Oakland A’s.
They got a couple of huge ones to tie the A’s on Sunday – Kenji Johjima’s home run in the ninth inning for a 4-4 score and a three-run rally in the 13th to make it 7-7 – before Jose Lopez found the secret in the 15th.
His routine popup to shallow center field fell for a bases-loaded single when A’s center fielder Rajai Davis misjudged the ball, giving the Mariners an 8-7 victory at Safeco Field.
It was Lopez’s second game-winning hit in three days; his single in the ninth inning Friday also broke a 7-7 tie.
The Mariners (15-10) have come from behind to win seven games this season. Twice they were behind by three runs Sunday, 3-0 after the A’s rocked starter Chris Jakubauskas in the first inning, then 7-4 with their three-run 13th off reliever Miguel Batista.
“It was more important for me that we didn’t die when we were down three runs, and it’s easy to do that,” manager Don Wakamatsu said. “It builds the character of this club and it reinforces confidence.”
Designated hitter Mike Sweeney’s two-run homer in the fourth inning – his first as a Mariner and 200th of his career – cut the A’s lead to 3-2, but Oakland added another run in the fifth off Jakubauskas.
By the seventh, it became a battle of the bullpens.
The Mariners scored in the seventh when Ichiro Suzuki grounded an RBI single up the middle to make it 4-3.
With the Mariners down to their last two outs in the ninth against right-hander Russ Springer, Kenji Johjima hit a first-pitch homer to left for a 4-4 tie.
The A’s got to the fading Miguel Batista in the 13th, scoring three times on Landon Powell’s two-run double, Orlando Cabrera’s RBI single and Mariners errors by Johjima and Lopez.
The Mariners pulled off their own three-run rally in the bottom of the 13th when Franklin Gutierrez worked a bases-loaded walk, Yuniesky Betancourt pushed home a run with a groundout and Ichiro lined an RBI single to center field for a 7-7 tie.
The A’s replaced Gio Gonzalez in the bottom of the 15th with Dana Eveland, the left-hander who started for them Friday night. The Mariners immediately pressurized him, as Wakamatsu likes to say.
Gutierrez led off with a flare single to right field and Betancourt followed with what might be described as a sacrifice bunt attempt. He got the bunt down, but pushed it directly at Eveland with what seemed like a sure double play.
Eveland, however, threw several feet left of the bag and the ball carried into center field, allowing Gutierrez to reach third and Betancourt second. The A’s intentionally walked Ichiro to load the bases, bringing Lopez to bat with a chance to win another game. He did, although it wasn’t a ringing hit.
His popup carried into shallow center and seemed like an easy out that wasn’t deep enough to allow Gutierrez to tag and score. Davis, however, broke back on the ball at contact and, with the A’s infielders playing in for a play at the plate, the ball landed untouched to win the game for the Mariners.
“This shows the character of this club, to be down three runs and come back and have some phenomenal at-bats,” Wakamatsu said. “These guys just don’t give up.”
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