Hello, friends. It's February 20th, which means that the pitchers and catchers of the Seattle Mariners will have their first official workout today. Hooooray! The off-season is finally over!! We did it!!! Accordingly, I'll be wrapping up this short three-part series today. I hope that folks have enjoyed reading this as much as I've enjoyed putting it together. I imagine those of you who have followed along can probably guess at least a few of the walk-off hits that will be included in today's portion of the countdown. There are some really good ones.
7. Nelson Cruz singles to left field to score Brad Miller
- Date: May 15th, 2015
- Situation: Bottom of the 9th, M's tied 1-1, 2 outs, runner on 2nd, 3-2 pitch
- WPA of at bat: 0.40
Whoa, Nellie. After mashing this walk-off single, Cruz's batting line was a staggering .358/.409/.730, good for a wRC+ of 213. (He was hitting a home run in more than 10% of his plate appearances!) This was one of the very best 35-game stretches by a hitter in Mariners history. Cruz would "cool" somewhat as the year continued (his wRC+ dropped all the way down to 142 for the remainder of the season), but god dammit was Nelson amazing last year. Also, and I know that this may not be the most popular opinion, but I think I'm really going to miss LoMo this year. I probably won't miss him from a baseball-playing perspective so much, but he always seemed like such a fun goof. How many other players are going to bear hug Cruz and carry him off of the field?
6. Franklin Gutierrez hits a solo home run to center field
- Date: July 26th, 2015
- Situation: Bottom of the 10th, M's tied 5-5, 1 out, bases empty, 0-2 pitch
- WPA of at bat: 0.43
I like to think of myself as a fairly competent writer, but I don't think I can hold a candle to Matt when it comes to capturing/expressing raw emotion and beauty with words. As such, if you would like to relive this wonderful walk off, I heartily suggest that you go back and read the recap from this game. I will add that this hit 100% made me cry and probably represents my favorite single moment of Mariners baseball since 2001. Love you, Guti.
5. Franklin Gutierrez singles to center field to score Jack Wilson and Chone Figgins
- Date: July 21st, 2010
- Situation: Bottom of the 11th, M's behind 0-1, 1 out, runners on 2nd and 3rd, 2-2 pitch
- WPA of at bat: 0.47
"It's their fourth win over the last 18 games." 2010 was maybe the bleakest year in franchise history. Josh Wilson was the everyday shortstop. Griffey OPS'd 0.454 in 108 PA before deciding to peace out at the beginning of June. The team lost 101 games for the second time in three years. Things were beyond ugly. And yet, we still got to experience shining moments like this one. Baseball is weird.
4. Kyle Seager hits a three-run home run to right field
- Date: April 23rd, 2014
- Situation: Bottom of the 9th, M's behind 2-3, 1 out, runners on 1st and 2nd, 0-0 pitch
- WPA of at bat: 0.68
During Seager's first 75 PA of 2014, he had a wRC+ of 54. During the rest of the season (579 PA), his wRC+ was 136. A flip switched for Kyle during this game, and it has remained on pretty much ever since. Lucky us.
3. Luis Rodriguez singles to center field to score Michael Saunders and Ichiro Suzuki
- Date: April 11th, 2011
- Situation: Bottom of the 9th, M's behind 6-7, 2 outs, runners on 2nd and 3rd, 2-2 pitch
- WPA of at bat: 0.77
Amazingly, this is Luis Rodriguez's second appearance on this countdown; although he appeared in just 44 games for the Mariners, he managed ~epic walk offs in two of them. What a guy! This hit was particularly impressive because 1) it came on the tenth pitch of the at bat; 2) the pitch was a good one, located down and just off the plate; and 3) Rodriguez didn't even start this game but came in off the bench midway through the contest to replace an injured Chone Figgins. This game also represents one of the Mariners most improbable comebacks in franchise history—down 7-1 in the eighth inning, the Mariners had a 0.40% chance of losing. (For reference, those are the same odds that Vegas is currently giving the Rockies to win the World Series in 2016 - 250:1.)
2. Ichiro Suzuki hits a two-run home run to right field
- Date: September 18th, 2009
- Situation: Bottom of the 9th, M's behind 1-2, 2 outs, runner on 2nd, 0-0 pitch
- WPA of at bat: 0.86
Coming in at second on this countdown is one of the most iconic moments of Ichiro's career. Here, we have two future Hall of Famers facing off with the game on the line. Ichiro is at the dish with two outs and the tying run in scoring position. Mariano Rivera and his Yankees are just a month and a half away from becoming World Champions. Mo has been on fire in '09, converting his previous 36 consecutive save opportunities. But tonight would not be his night. To open up the at bat, Rivera throws a pitch (his pitch) thigh-high and in off the plate, appearing to hit his spot perfectly. But Ichiro ambushes the delivery, using a Happy Gilmore-inspired home-run swing to send the ball deeeeep into the right field seats. And the crowd goes wild. (FUN FACT: Among batters who faced Rivera more than 15 times, Ichiro's 1.104 OPS against him was the third highest, trailing only Aubrey Huff and Edgar Martinez.)
1. Ryan Langerhans hits a two-run home run to right field
- Date: August 7th, 2009
- Situation: Bottom of the 11th, M's behind 5-6, 2 outs, runner on 2nd, 2-2 pitch
- WPA of at bat: 0.86
Bottom of the ninth. Down by a run. A man on second. Two outs. Two strikes. 45,000 cheering fans on their feet. Ryan Langherhans had probably envisioned this scenario a thousand times throughout his life, playing in backyards and cul-de-sacs, sand lots and unkempt minor league fields. And then: Well hit... deep to right field... and this one is... over! Goodbye baseball!!! It has been said many times before, but I'll say it again—2009 was such a great year to be a Mariners fan. Thank you for being a part of the fun, Ryan.
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I hope that everyone enjoys the rest of their weekend. Baseball is back!