NEW YORK – For an agonizing matter of seconds that felt like minutes, the entire focus of CitiField turned to first base umpire Chad Whitson and his decision.
For the Mets, it would be an improbable victory in front of packed crowd and another series win in an already successful season where they had yet to lose one.
For the Mariners, they were on the precipice of taking what might be one of their best wins of an up-and-down season and turning it into a catastrophic defeat that would likely linger for weeks.
With two outs and the bases loaded and the Mariners clinging to a one-run lead, Diego Castillo, the Mariners’ second pitcher used in a wild bottom of the ninth inning, fired a 3-2 slider to Pete Alonso. The pitch, which started near the bottom of the strike zone and on the outside corner, darted down and away from the Mets slugging first baseman, who made an attempt to swing at the pitch but then pulled the bat back quickly.
Home plate umpire Hunter Wendelstedt did not move or say anything. Cal Raleigh, who had gloved the pitch in the dirt, looked back at Wendelstedt and then asked for an appeal to Whitson at first, which was granted.
Perhaps sensing the moment and anticipation, Whitson slowly clenched his fist and pumped his right arm violently, calling it a swinging strike three. It ended the Mets’ stunning rally in the drama-filled ninth and allowed the Mariners to escape New York with an 8-7 victory.
“I thought he went, but then nobody said anything,” Raleigh said. “I looked at first, and I was like, ‘He went it, right? It was kind of like a standstill. When nobody said anything, I got a little nervous.”
Castillo, who operates with minimal outward emotion or excitement, wasn’t nervous on the mound.
“I saw the bat pretty much point at me,” Castillo said through reliever Sergio Romo. “I was pretty confident he went.”
In the dugout manager Scott Servais, believed Alonso went around, but he doesn’t take umpire accuracy as a given.
“If he doesn’t call him out there, I’m no longer in the game,” Servais said.
After dismal stretch of baseball, that including a 4-12 record in the 16 games prior to this series in New York, the Mariners stunned the one of the best teams in baseball by taking two of three in the weekend series, beating Max Scherzer in the first game and Carlos Carrasco in the third game. It was Seattle’s first series win on the road.
“That was a very entertaining series, three one-run games I would have preferred and not all the run one run but we’ll take it starts with the guy on the hill.
All three games were decided by one run, though the finale in the Sunday sunshine could’ve been a more comfortable Mariners win.
Thanks to an early two-run double from Mike Ford, a four-hit, five-times-on-base performance from Julio Rodriguez, which included a solo homer and a RBI single, and a mammoth two-run homer from Cal Raleigh, Seattle had an 8-5 lead going into the bottom of the ninth.
However, Drew Steckenrider couldn’t close out the win. After retiring the first batter he faced, Steckenrider allowed a triple to Eduardo Escobar and three straight singles that scored two runs to make it to a one-run game.
With one out and runners on second and third, Servais turned to Castillo to stop the hemorraghing. It was a move out of necessity and not popularity. The veteran right-hander has struggled of late, allowing nine runs on 10 hits with two walks while recording a combined three outs in three appearances.
But Castillo, who has pitched in high-tension sitiuations in the postseason, struck out Starling Marte for the second out of the inning.
With first base open, manager Scott Servais decided to walk Francisco Lindor to load the bases for Alonso, who came into the game leading the National League with 29 RBI. Given Castillo’s best pitch was a slider and his struggles with lefties, Servais decided the matchup was better against Alonso.
Castillo threw Alonso nothing but sliders and prevailed.
The banged out a total of 16 hits in the game while drawing seven walks with all nine starting position players getting hits. The Mariners are now 13-6 when scoring four or more runs.
The offense allowed Robbie Ray to overcome yet another start that featured one bad, run-filled inning. Ray pitched six innings, allowing five runs on five hits with three walks and nine strikeouts. Upon first glance, it would seem like a less-than-stellar outing from the Mariners’ ace. But four of those runs were scored in the fourth inning where he seemed to lose command momentarily. Digging into other numbers, Ray generated 27 swings and misses – a career high — on his 97 pitches, while the average velocity of his fastball (94.3 mph) and slider (87.8 mph) in the game were almost two mph higher than their seasonal averages.
After Ray’s disastrous fourth inning that features four runs scored on three hits with two walks and 30 pitches thrown, changing a 4-1 lead to 5-4 deficit, the Mariners’ offense responded in the sixth. Rodriguez tied the game with a missile of a solo homer into the left field seats. It was his second homer of the season.
After Abraham Toro reached on an infield single with one out, Raleigh, who came into the game hitting .065, crushed a ball deep over the wall in right-center to give Seattle the lead.
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