Raleigh's pinch-hit slam ignites Mariners in thrilling victory

May 8th, 2024

MINNEAPOLIS -- The Mariners’ 10-6 victory over the Twins on Tuesday night at Target Field can be easily broken into two pieces. There was before entered the game, and then there was after he entered the game.

Raleigh’s pinch-hit grand slam with one out in the seventh inning turned a 4-2 deficit into a 6-4 Mariners lead. And after the Twins rallied to tie it in the eighth, Raleigh drew a key walk as part of a four-run ninth to put Minnesota away.

For six innings, Seattle’s bats looked as sleepy as they had the night before, when the Twins held them to just one run. But Raleigh’s slam injected life into the dugout and provided a reminder of what the offense is capable of doing.

“Don’t worry about yesterday or the day before if you didn’t hit well,” said Raleigh, summarizing the team’s approach. “It’s just, move on to the next. You’ve got to go get them and find a way to get the job done today. It was nice to wake the bats up a bit and hopefully we’ll keep rolling like that.”

Raleigh entered the game as a pinch-hitter for Seby Zavala after Twins reliever Jay Jackson had loaded the bases on two singles and a walk. With the switch-hitting Raleigh due up, Twins manager Rocco Baldelli elected to bring in lefty Steven Okert and make Raleigh hit right-handed.

Two days earlier in Houston, Raleigh jumped on a 96-mph fastball from Astros lefty Josh Hader for the go-ahead home run. On Tuesday, he blasted a full-count slider from Okert into Target Field’s third deck for his ninth homer of the season.

“We knew he liked to spin the ball,” Raleigh said of Okert. “Me, I’m just trying to keep it slow, trying to see it up and trying to hit the ball the other way. I just happened to pull it, but good things happen when you think the other way.”

Considering he started the game on the bench, Raleigh didn’t need much time to get a lot of prep work done from both sides of the plate before his game-changing at-bat.

“I saw [Okert] warming up in the ‘pen,” Raleigh said. “He was kind of getting up quick so I knew they were trying to rush him, I knew that was a possibility. So I was able to get work in in the cages and do some stuff, make sure I had both sides ready just in case that was to happen.”

It was the fourth pinch-hit grand slam in team history and the fourth pinch-hit homer of Raleigh’s career, tying him with Ken Phelps for the most ever by a Mariner. And when it comes to Raleigh, not much surprises Mariners manager Scott Servais.

“If you’re down in the game or the game’s close, he’s just got a way late in the game,” Servais said. “He has really good at-bats. He doesn’t always come through, but when he does he usually comes through in a big way.”

In the ninth, Dylan Moore hit a high fly ball that Twins left fielder Austin Martin seemed to misjudge. Martin leapt near the wall, but the ball cleared his glove and caromed off the wall while Moore cruised into third for a triple.

Raleigh followed with a walk, and Josh Rojas singled to give the Mariners a 7-6 lead. Mitch Haniger later hit a sacrifice fly that scored Raleigh, Rojas came home on a wild pitch and Ty France added an RBI single to complete the frame.

“We were kind of waiting for this game to come,” Servais said. “At some of these points you’re going to have to find a way to score a bunch of runs to pick up your pitching and we did that tonight.”

Unfortunately, the Mariners lost reliever Tayler Saucedo on a close play that allowed the Twins to tie it in the eighth. With Max Kepler on second and one out, Martin hit a grounder wide of first base. France made the play and flipped it to Saucedo covering the base, but Martin’s headfirst slide beat Saucedo to the bag.

Saucedo landed awkwardly and collapsed in pain, and Kepler scampered home with the tying run before the ball could be retrieved.

“We’re gonna miss him,” said Servais, who didn’t yet know the severity of the injury, which appeared to be to his right knee. “Sauce has been so valuable for us, kind of in that utility role, left-handed, and his personality on top of it. But he’ll be back.”