KANSAS CITY -- On a night when Mariners manager Scott Servais wanted to give catcher Cal Raleigh some rest, that plan had to be modified.
With Seattle down by two in the sixth inning of Saturday’s game against the Royals, it was Raleigh to the rescue. Raleigh came off the bench to hit a game-tying two-run homer and stayed around for a go-ahead RBI double in the ninth that lifted the Mariners to a 6-5 victory at Kauffman Stadium.
“He’s huge for us,” Servais said. “Behind the plate and at the plate.”
Indeed, the Mariners were in danger of falling to 2-7 on their road trip before Raleigh entered the game and turned it all around -- evening the series at one game apiece and setting up Sunday's matinee rubber game.
“It was very important,” said Raleigh, who has hit two homers in the series. “Obviously, we haven’t been doing our best lately. For us to get a win tonight and gut it out was big. That’s what good teams do and that’s what playoff teams do. That’s where we want to be.”
Seattle (83-68) picked up a game on Baltimore, which lost 11-10 to the Astros, to go up four in the race for the third American League Wild Card spot. The Mariners managed to take a firm step in the right direction despite leaving 14 men on base against the Royals.
Kansas City put some good early swings on Logan Gilbert by attacking his fastball early in counts. That meant Seattle had to make an uphill climb and eventually got where it wanted to go.
Raleigh’s two-run homer was a mammoth 444-foot blast to deep right field with a 112 mph exit velo, according to Statcast, and his winning double was an opposite-field drive to left.
“That’s a long way to hit the ball to the opposite field,” Servais said of Raleigh’s ninth-inning at-bat. “That’s a home run in [most] every other ballpark. Heck of a job by Cal. His timing is really good. He’s seeing the ball and he’s not in a rush.”
Gilbert went five innings and the Royals scored on him in four of those frames. But the Mariners’ bullpen delivered four scoreless innings and that gave Raleigh a chance to be the offensive catalyst for a win after sitting out the first half of the game.
Raleigh’s 25th homer tied Mike Zunino for the most by a Seattle catcher in a season. Zunino hit his 25 in 2017.
But it was the opposite-field double in the ninth by Raleigh that finally enabled Seattle to jump in front and set the stage for Andrés Muñoz to pick up the save.
“Sometimes people get carried away with trying to do too much,” Raleigh said of his ninth-inning heroics. “Just square it up and the rest will take care of itself.”