Streaking Mariners alone atop AL Wild Card standings

September 5th, 2022

CLEVELAND -- The top spot in the American League Wild Card race belongs to the Mariners. It took a 4 1/2-hour weather delay, 11 innings, their entire bullpen and nearly all of their bench.

After relinquishing a lead late and failing to capitalize on a golden scoring opportunity in the 10th inning, the Mariners pushed across three runs in the 11th on Sunday in a 6-3 win at Progressive Field that secured a sweep over the Guardians and stretched their winning streak to seven games.

“What a long day,” manager Scott Servais said. “You don’t know how guys are going to respond to that delay. … We needed every guy out of the bullpen and got some huge hits there at the end.”

Seattle’s decisive 11th inning was punctuated by a go-ahead single from J.P. Crawford and a two-run home run from Cal Raleigh, who managed to play hero despite not playing for almost all of the duration of a game that, including the rain delay, took place across 8 hours, 20 minutes, spanning both the afternoon and evening. After striking out as a pinch-hitter in the ninth inning, Raleigh gave the Mariners insurance runs when he crushed a Trevor Stephan splitter to right field to increase Seattle’s lead to three runs.

“Our guys fight, and they fight all the way to the end,” Servais said. “We don’t know how it’s going to work out or who is going to get the big hit. … We needed someone to break through, and that’s what happened.

That said, Crawford and Raleigh might not have had a chance to win it if not for Abraham Toro. The veteran infielder, who entered the game as a pinch-hitter, made a nice place at second base to induce a tough 4-3-6 double play on Josh Naylor that included a throw from first baseman Ty France to the shortstop Crawford at second to get José Ramírez on a tag play.

“Really heads-up play,” Servais said. “Toro deserves a lot of credit for running the runner back and keeping the double play in order and Ty finishing it when we had him caught up in the rundown. You have to make those kinds of plays, and our guys have a knack for doing it.”

All nine members of the Mariners’ bullpen were pressed into use after starter George Kirby’s workday was done after three innings because of the long delay. The relievers combined to allow two runs over eight innings.

Matthew Festa and Matthew Boyd were among the standouts, as their gutsy performances in the ninth inning (Festa) and 10th (Boyd) turned back the Guardians, who had rallied from a 3-1 deficit by scoring in the seventh and eighth innings.

“I felt good about where we’re at bullpen-wise, and you never know what’s going to happen with the weather,” Servais said. “Credit to our guys. That’s a long time to wait around not knowing if you’re going to play.”

Superstar rookie Julio Rodríguez was a factor before and after the delay. He reached on an error in the first inning and scored on France’s double. After the Guardians tied it in the bottom of the first, Rodríguez put the Mariners in front again with his 23rd home run -- a towering shot to the bleachers in left field in the third inning. Rodríguez finished the game 4-for-6.

The win closed a 6-0 road trip through Detroit and Cleveland. After beating up on the lowly Tigers for three games, the Mariners scored first in all three games in Cleveland.

And while the final win might come with the tradeoff of a middle-of-the-night arrival before a day game in Seattle on Monday, no one in the Mariners’ clubhouse seems to care. Especially since they’ll head to the Pacific Northwest in the driver’s seat of the AL Wild Card race after the Rays’ loss to the Yankees on Sunday.

“We went 6-0 on that trip, and everybody chipped in,” Servais said. “I love where our ballclub is right now.”