SEATTLE – It didn’t have to be a line drive. A bloop, a flare, a ground ball with eyes, really a base hit of any sort or even a booted ball would’ve got the Mariners a win.
But that’s not as much fun as circling the bases in the afternoon sunshine while 38,219 fans at T-Mobile Park lose their minds.
With two outs in the bottom of the 10th inning and J.P. Crawford on third base and Jarred Kelenic standing on second, the Mariners needed something from Eugenio Suarez to end the game.
They got that and a little more. Facing his friend and former Reds teammate Robert Stephenson, Suarez turned a hanging slider into a three-run, walkoff homer to give Seattle a stunning 6-3 victory Sunday.
“I’ve known Stephenson a long time and I know he’s gonna come with the slider,” Suarez said. “I was ready for that pitch. He hung it right there.”
It was the Mariners’ first walkoff homer since Cal Raleigh’s unforgettable walkoff homer off Domingo Acevedo to clinch a berth in the postseason.
Suarez’s second career walkoff homer clinched a series win for Seattle. The Mariners improved to 6-1 on the homestand and moved to 28-25 — the first time this season they’ve been three games over .500.
“Really good series for us,” manager Scott Servais said. “I know we got off to a rough start there with all the home runs we gave up in Game One, but the last two days we’ve pitched just outstanding. The Pirates have a good young team. They’re scrappy, they control the strike zone very well and they can really pitch, so winning the series it’s nice. We hadn’t had a walkoff win in a while. We were due.”
Lefty Tayler Saucedo set up Suarez’s heroics by holding the Pirates scoreless in the top of the 10th. The Tahoma High standout struck out Ke’Bryan Hayes with two outs and the bases loaded to end the inning and keep the score tied at 3.
It looked as though the Mariners might also get held scoreless in the bottom of the 10th. With J.P. Crawford starting as the automatic runner at second, Ty France moved him to third with a soft ground out to second base. Stephenson was able to strike out Julio Rodriguez swinging for the second out. Pirates manager Derek Shelton didn’t hesitate and signaled for an intentional walk of Jarred Kelenic.
“I knew that if Julio got out, they were going to walk Jarred and try to get me,” Suarez said. “I was thinking, ‘This is your time and you’ve got to do something right here.’ I’m going to be honest. I’m not trying to hit a homer. I’m just trying to put a ball in play and I got a big hit.”
Servais was confident Suarez would come through.
“Huge swing,” Servais said. “Certainly looking for a pitch and he got it. It’s veteran presence that Geno brings in those situations. He doesn’t panic, doesn’t try to overdo it. He was just looking for something that he can handle. He’s just very calm. He went up to the plate with a plan. He got a pitch and put a great swing on it. So nice series went on.”
The Mariners got a solid start from Marco Gonzales. The veteran lefty pitched 5 2/3 innings, allowing one run on four hits with three walks and four strikeouts but didn’t figure into the decision despite exiting with a 3-1 lead. The Mariners have a 7-3 record in his starts this season.
The one run allowed came in the fifth inning. Gonzales allowed a pair of soft singles to the first two batters. Austin Hedges drove home Ji-Wan Bae with a sacrifice line drive to left field. That was all the Pirates would get in the inning as Gonzales retired the next two batters to strand the base runner.
Much to his obvious displeasure, he wasn’t allowed to finish the sixth inning. After getting a pair of quick ground ball outs, he walked Rodolfo Castro. Servais went to his bullpen. Matt Brash struck out Hayes to end the inning.
“I know that I can finish that inning right there,” Gonzales said. “I know that I have the utmost confidence from our staff, but I just really wanted that last out of the sixth for sure.”
Seattle took an immediate lead in the first inning when Rodriguez hit a towering fly ball to left field. The ball, which had a 43-degree launch angle and reached an apex of 163 feet, carried just over the wall in left field. It was Rodriguez’s ninth homer of the year and extended his hitting streak to seven games. With a single in his second at-bat, Rodriguez has multi-hit games in six of those games.
In the fourth inning, Cal Raleigh replicated Rodriguez’s homer, but from the left side of the plate and to right field. Raleigh’s high fly ball also had a 43-degree launch angle and reached 163 feet in the air before carrying over the wall to make it 2-0.
“There were more than a few of those in this series,” Servais said. “They hit a couple as well. They’re struck well, they’re up there. You don’t know if they’re gonna carry or not. Obviously, it’s been warming up a little bit. If you hit those balls in April, they’re probably not home runs. That’s just the way it is. But that’s baseball. You need a little luck and a few things to go your way once in a while.”
After the Pirates picked up their one run off Gonzales, Kelenic got it back with a crisp RBI double to left.
Up 3-1, the Mariners bullpen couldn’t close it out in regulation. Brought in to pitch the eighth inning, Justin Topa gave up a soft single to Andrew McCutchen and then a ground ball down the first-base line that went for a triple for Bryan Reynolds. After Topa struck out Connor Joe, Servais called on Paul Sewald to end the inning with a lead. He couldn’t do it. A 3-2 slider in the dirt got through the legs of Tom Murphy and tied the game at 3.