KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Where would the Seattle Mariners be without Cal Raleigh?
In what was supposed to be a day off to rest his battered left thumb, Raleigh came through with two of the most important hits of the season for the Mariners – and that’s not hyperbole – in a must-have-it 6-5 comeback victory over the Royals on Saturday night at Kauffman Stadium.
The young catcher hit the tying, two-run home run in the sixth inning to deep right field and then had the game-winning double off the wall in left field, scoring Jarred Kelenic for the decisive run in the top of the ninth inning.
Raleigh just about single-handedly saved the Mariners from another devastating defeat on this brutal road trip.
The Mariners improved to 83-68 with 11 games remaining.
With one out in the top of the ninth, Kelenic beat out an infield single on a hard ground ball up the middle.
Jesse Winker followed with a single, putting runners and first and second for Raleigh to bat from his favored left side. Because of his injured left thumb, the switch-hitting Raleigh hasn’t been as comfortable hitting from the right side.
On a 1-1 pitch from Royals reliever Brad Keller, Raleigh drove a pitch of the top of the wall in left. Kelenic scored from second to make it 6-5.
Andres Munoz worked around a one-out single in the bottom of the ninth to pick up the save.
Winker, pinch-hitting for Luis Torrens to start the sixth, singled sharply to center field off Royals right-handed reliever Collin Snider.
Raleigh was called on to pinch hit for Curt Casali. On a 2-1 pitch from Snider, Raleigh turned on a slider in the middle of the plate and sent it way out to right field, 444 feet, to tie the score at 5.
It was Raleigh’s 25th homer of the season, the most among all MLB catchers.
The Mariners couldn’t capitalize on two bases-loaded opportunities late in the game to break a 5-all tie.
With the bases loaded and no outs in the top of the sixth, the Mariners couldn’t push across a single run off Royals reliever Carlos Hernandez.
Carlos Santana popped out to foul territory for the first out.
Adam Frazier popped out for the second out.
Sam Haggerty struck out swinging at a splitter for the final out.
With the score still tied, the Mariners loaded the bases again the eighth, with out. Again they couldn’t capitalize, as Royals reliever Brad Keller got Frazier to ground into a 4-3 inning-ending double play.
It’s been that kind of long trip for the Mariners.
Logan Gilbert, in one of his worst starts of the season, was rocked for five runs on seven hits.
Gilbert had been dominant for the Mariners over the past month, allowing just two runs total in four September starts, with a 0.78 ERA and 34 strikeouts in 23 innings pitched.
He hadn’t allowed a home run in his previous 41.1 innings, dating back to an Aug. 8 loss to the Yankees.
That quickly changed when Gilbert left a hanging curveball over the plate to the Royals’ cleanup hitter, left-hander Vinnie Pasquantino, in the first inning. Pasquantino crushed it deep to right field, 432 feet, for a two-run home run.
It was obvious from the start that Gilbert did not have his best stuff. The Royals built a 5-3 lead through four innings, and seven of the first 15 batted balls the Royals put in play were “hard” hits of 95 mph or greater.
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