Don't sleep on Seattle: Walk-off kings red hot

Long's grand slam caps 4-game sweep of Rays

June 21st, 2021

In his own words, was just trying to find a hole. He ended up finding a pretty big one.

Long sent T-Mobile Park into a delirium with an exhilarating walk-off grand slam in the bottom of the 10th inning on Sunday, giving the Mariners a 6-2 Father's Day win over the Rays. It was the exclamation point on a four-game sweep of the defending American League champions, and Long's heroics served as a message for those who haven’t been paying attention to Seattle.

“If they haven’t yet, then they better now,” Long said. “That’s the best answer I've got.”

Long’s confident tone doesn’t come out of thin air. The Mariners, winners of eight of their last nine games, are playing their best baseball of the season. As of late, they’ve had a flair for the dramatic, with three of the four wins in the Rays series coming via walk-off.

Kyle Seager kicked off the recent wave of late-inning heroics on Thursday. After Long drove in the tying run with a double, Seager came off the bench to deliver a game-winning single.

Two nights later, Mitch Haniger got in on the festivities with a walk-off single of his own.

Long followed that with even more theatrics with the first grand slam of his career, a moment that, funnily enough, he can hardly remember.

“I remember stepping in the box and just saying, ‘Just get the barrel there. Just be short to it and get a base hit,’” Long said. “After that, just boom. Here we are now.”

For Long’s sake, let’s recap the scene, because the build-up to the slam was rather eventful. Dylan Moore, who scored the winning run, initially missed home plate, too enamored by what just unfolded. Long raised his right index finger toward the sky as he rounded first, then leapt into an awaiting crowd of teammates to touch home plate, being dosed with water and baby powder. Shortly later, he’d be doused in Gatorade, the latest Mariner to experience the pinnacle of post walk-off celebration.

“It was unbelievable, honestly,” Long said. “Just a great feeling. It’s one of the coolest things you can do in baseball, in my opinion. So, it was a great feeling just rounding the bases and knowing that I was able to help my team win.”

The buzz was only amplified by the crowd. At 18,172, it was Seattle’s largest attendance of the season as the stadium inches back toward full capacity. After playing last season with no fans in attendance, Long said these moments just hit differently.

“There’s a completely different feeling, there’s a completely different vibe in the game,” Long said.

Those words could also describe the Mariners themselves, who find themselves one of baseball’s hottest teams. Entering late June, they’re two games over the .500 mark. There’s a lot of baseball left to be played, no doubt, but their confidence is ascending.

The Seattle faithful certainly enjoyed Sunday’s dramatics, but the events leading up to the walk-off proved this is a team firing on all cylinders.

There was the pitching. Marco Gonzales delivered his first quality start since April 27, allowing two runs across 6 1/3 innings. Anthony Misiewicz, Paul Sewald, Drew Steckenrider and Rafael Montero combined for 3 2/3 scoreless relief.

There was the defense. In the fourth inning, center fielder Jake Fraley made a leaping catch to take extra bases away from Ji-Man Choi, then Ty France scooped a 104.6 mph rocket off the bat of Austin Meadows to set up an inning-ending 3-6-3 double play.

And, yes, there was the hitting. J.P. Crawford extended his hitting streak to eight games. Jake Bauers and France, who hit a game-tying homer in the seventh inning, extended their streaks to nine games. Luis Torrens also homered, his third over his past five games since returning from the injured list.

No matter where you look, the Mariners are playing exciting baseball.

“We’re playing on top of our game right now,” said manager Scott Servais. “It’s really fun to watch young players' confidence grow and what they can do and the excitement they bring. Hopefully our fans are enjoying it.”