Haniger, Raley, Miller shine in walk-off win

June 13th, 2024

SEATTLE -- emerged from the batting cage deep underneath the home dugout at T-Mobile Park just as the Mariners reached the bottom of the 10th inning on Wednesday night.

Staked to a 1-1 tie with one out and lumbering speedster Luke Raley on second base, Haniger was called to pinch-hit against White Sox spin specialist Steven Wilson, who twirled sweeper after sweeper, with just two fastballs mixed in to keep him honest.

Over nine tense pitches, Haniger grinded through five fouls, laid off two balls that were just barely outside then perfectly read the final offering up in the zone. It was enough to poke into shallow right field, give Raley enough breathing room to race home and propel the Mariners to a 2-1, walk-off victory.

"Pinch-hitting is not easy," Haniger said. "The stats show that. But at the same time, you've just got to go up there and compete and try to get a good pitch and put a good swing on it, and that's pretty much all you can do."

Haniger's heroics lifted the Mariners to their third win in extras since Sunday and fifth this season, which trails only Cleveland and Miami, who each have six, for the most in MLB.

And for Haniger, it was his sixth career walk-off with the Mariners, tying him for second-most in franchise history with Jose Lopez and Russ Davis. His most recent was on Aug. 26, 2022, vs. Cleveland, the same day Julio Rodríguez signed his massive contract extension.

"The big thing there is just the will to get the ball in play," Mariners manager Scott Servais said. "You know, 'I've got to get the ball in play. I've got to give our team a chance,' and that's a credit to him for finding out a way to do that."

Haniger is in the midst of a season where his numbers aren't where he or the club had hoped -- he has a .631 OPS through 64 games, which matches his clip from a disappointing 2023 with the Giants -- but some of that could be correlated to him playing more regularly than anticipated due to personnel needs when Seattle had a few outfielders sidelined earlier this year.

The quality of at-bats have improved, with Wednesday being the most prime example of late.

"We still know we can improve and get better," Haniger said. "And I think that's the scary thing for other teams to kind of see us. We know we're even capable of much more, so that's a pretty cool feeling."

Beyond the late-innings thrillers that have defined this homestand, the Mariners have now won nine straight series and 20 of their past 25 games at home. Haniger, who would be the club's longest-tenured player if not for that one-year stop in San Francisco, is now in his sixth season in Seattle after returning via a Jan. 5 trade.

"I really missed playing here last year with my teammates," Haniger said. "Our team, we just have really good chemistry, a really good culture here. ... You can feel the difference when you're playing late in games here versus on the road, and it makes a big difference."

In that fateful at-bat, Haniger knew that anything to the outfield would give the Mariners a chance, especially with Raley emerging as their fastest everyday player other than Rodríguez. Raley began the 10th as the automatic runner at second base, and he represented Seattle's entire run production for the day when accounting for his 376-foot solo homer in the seventh that broke a scoreless tie.

Seattle's late efforts backed a gem from Bryce Miller, who cleared the seventh inning with only four baserunners allowed -- one single, one double and two walks -- while finding newfound vertical movement to his four-seam fastball, which he used for six of his eight strikeouts. Miller rebounded in a big way after a season-high seven runs his last time out in Kansas City.

He now has a 1.82 ERA at home compared to a 5.94 ERA on the road.

"You've got the fans behind you and more confidence just to throw it over the plate and attack," Miller said. "Especially coming off of a tough road trip, or a tough game for me, it's good to get back home and get back on track."

Both Haniger and Miller spoke to the triumphs of playing at home. And if the Mariners keep at this pace, it could be a special summer at T-Mobile Park.