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Déjà boom: Haniger tops Boxberger in 9th again

One day after hitting go-ahead homer, Mariners outfielder gets to Royals closer once more
@gregjohnsmlb
April 11, 2019

KANSAS CITY -- There was a serious case of déjà vu on Thursday at Kauffman Stadium, and it wasn’t just because the Mariners were hitting homers and beating the Royals, 7-6, to complete a four-game sweep that continues their red-hot start. Boil this one down a little tighter and you

KANSAS CITY -- There was a serious case of déjà vu on Thursday at Kauffman Stadium, and it wasn’t just because the Mariners were hitting homers and beating the Royals, 7-6, to complete a four-game sweep that continues their red-hot start.

Boil this one down a little tighter and you had Seattle right fielder Mitch Haniger staring down Kansas City closer Brad Boxberger with two out in the top of the ninth and the game on the line for a second straight night.

On Wednesday, Haniger hit the go-ahead solo homer off Boxberger in a 6-5 win, ambushing an 0-1 fastball that the veteran reliever tried to slip past him after Haniger had swung way late on a first-pitch slider.

Things got even more dramatic in Thursday’s series finale. Haniger battled Boxberger through a nine-pitch at-bat before driving a two-run triple to center field that carried off the glove of Royals speedster Billy Hamilton and set up Daniel Vogelbach’s game-winning homer in the 10th.

“I’m not in that situation if Haniger doesn’t have the at-bat he does to tie the game,” Vogelbach said. “He fouled off a ton of pitches. That guy [Boxberger] is a closer for a reason, and Mitch made him work, got a pitch he could handle and then anything can happen in extra innings.”

Haniger worked the count full, fouled off a pair of changeups and a 91 mph fastball, and then reached down to lace yet another changeup from the 30-year-old Boxberger.

“I was just trying to battle,” Haniger said. “He kind of threw the whole kitchen sink at me. I was seeing him pretty good, so I was just trying to extend the zone and swing at strikes.”

Haniger, a first-time All-Star last year, is as prepared as any Mariner when it comes to studying pitchers and understanding how they’re going to attack him. That paid off again versus Boxberger, against whom he’s now 2-for-3 with the homer and triple.

“Today was my third at-bat off him -- I’ve seen him well and kind of know what he likes going to,” Haniger said. “He’s going to really lean on that changeup when he’s in trouble. I had that in the back of my mind.

“At the same time, once you get into a two-strike count, you have to be ready for the heater and try to adjust from there. I pulled a couple changeups down that were really good pitches and finally got that last one up and was able to drive it.”

“Hanny had the at-bat of the game,” said Seattle manager Scott Servais. “You’re down to your last strike and he’s fighting and clawing, and [he] finally got a changeup up in the zone and hit it well. They almost tracked it down, with the great defense they played against us all series.”

Haniger admitted he didn’t know if Hamilton would run the ball down as it came off his bat, but he did know the 25-mph winds had been wreaking havoc in the outfield. He also was well aware of Hamilton’s speed.

“I didn’t know,” Haniger said. “I knew I hit it really well. I was just trying to go hard out of the box and hopefully it got down. [Terrance] Gore robbed probably four or five hits from us and Whit Merrifield, too. They have a really good outfield. There’s a lot of ground to cover out there and those guys are really fast. They get to a lot of balls.”

In the end, however, even the speedy Hamilton couldn't track down Haniger’s drive and Kansas City took its 10th straight loss. This one hurt even more, as Hamilton injured his knee when he hit the wall and had to be carted off.

"With the way the wind was blowing, it may have carried a little bit,” Boxberger said. “But off the bat, I definitely thought it was an out today.’

The Mariners? They don’t seem to be slowed by anything at the moment. An inning later, Vogelbach drove his own line drive to center and this one sizzled over the fence for the game-winning homer.

“I knew it was gone when he hit it,” said Haniger. “I was talking to him and he said, ‘I don’t know if I had enough because of the wind.’ But it was like a rocket off his bat. That’s going to cut any wind.”

And so the déjà vu continued as Seattle celebrated Vogelbach’s sixth homer in the past seven days and then headed home, happy to enjoy another Haniger highlight and one more win in their stunning season-opening stretch.

Greg Johns has covered the Mariners since 1997, and for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB.