SEATTLE -- As if the Mariners’ outstanding weekend wasn’t enough, they took their heroics to another level on Monday and stunned the first-place Astros in an 11-8 win on a night they trailed by seven runs and seemed all but assuredly down and out.
Dylan Moore crushed a pinch-hit, two-out grand slam with Seattle trailing by one in the bottom of the eighth inning, connecting every bit of his barrel on a 1-1 cutter from Houston reliever Brooks Raley. Before watching the ball soar 395 feet into the second deck, he turned to the home dugout and raised his right index finger, signaling that Seattle’s most improbable comeback was all but complete.
Paul Sewald shut the door with a hitless ninth inning to secure his fourth save, which pushed the Mariners to a season-high nine games over .500 (55-46), and to within one game of the second American League Wild Card behind the A’s, who were off Monday.
“We’re a different team this year,” said J.P. Crawford, who went 3-for-4. “We're competing with everybody, and we go into the game knowing that and that we could beat any team that steps on the same field as us. And if we keep that mentality throughout the whole year, we're going to be a problem. As you can see, right now we're playing really good ball.”
Moore’s moment was the headliner in an eighth inning that could’ve had its own highlight reel. Immediately after he and his teammates emotionally rounded the bases, Crawford was plunked by Raley in a 3-1 count after watching three breaking balls break way inside.
Mariners manager Scott Servais, who’s been criticized in the past for not showing more emotion, was as livid as ever. Tensions were high in the other dugout, too, and Raley wound up being ejected. Crawford said postgame that he didn’t think the hit-by-pitch was intentional, yet the response from Seattle’s dugout further underscored that the Mariners view themselves on an equal playing level as the Astros.
“That was cool. That fired me up a little bit,” Crawford said. “It just shows you what type of team we have this year. We have each other's backs, and to have a winning, successful team, we’ve got to have that. We’ve got to have each person fighting for one another.”
That eighth inning was symbolic in so many ways to how far Seattle has come since embarking on its rebuild nearly three years ago, particularly given the context of the opponent. The Astros walked all over the Mariners in recent years, winning 18 of their 19 matchups in 2019 and seven of 10 in ’20. Houston again looks like a heavyweight in ‘21, with the second-best record in the AL, while leading the Majors with 20.8 WAR, per FanGraphs.
But the quality of baseball that Seattle has played against the division’s most superior team of this era has vastly improved. The Mariners advanced to 4-4 against Houston, after moving to 6-4 against Oakland, the division’s other postseason regular.
“It's really cool to see,” Moore said. “I mean, I think that from 2019 to now, we've all gotten better. We've learned from the experiences and yeah, you're right, we only won one game in 2019 against the Astros and I think that now we can go toe-to-toe with anybody in the league, and I think that's really cool. It speaks to our work ethic as a team, it speaks to the coaching staff and this organization.”
Aside from the emotion and the eighth, what stood out on Monday was that the Mariners didn’t roll over. They were down six runs before stepping to the plate after fill-in No. 5 starter Darren McCaughan allowed six straight Astros batters to reach and score with one out in the first inning. He eventually put Seattle in a 7-0 hole midway through the third.
But Cal Raleigh sparked the rally with a bases-clearing double that went 111.7 mph off the bat in the fourth, then Kyle Seager skied a 383-foot three-run shot in the fifth that suddenly made it a game against Houston rookie Luis Garcia, who had given up more than three runs just once before in his 18 starts coming into Monday. Shed Long Jr. laced an opposite-field single against a shift in the sixth to make it a one-run contest.
That set up the fateful eighth, which capped Seattle’s largest comeback since June 2, 2016, when they overcame 10 runs in San Diego.
“The heart of this crew, and they truly believe, they believe they're playing for something bigger than themselves,” a raspy Servais said after losing his voice from screaming throughout Monday’s game. “They believe in each other and growing confidence and all parts of all facets of our game. It's tough when you get down like that -- and certainly against a team that's leading the division, one of the best records in baseball, a team that that we know very well -- but guys, we got huge hits.
“You could talk all night long about that game and everything that went into it but you really have to start with the heart of this ballclub.”