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Mariners stuff a win in our Easter baskets, defeat Rangers 8-7

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Mariners complete sweep of Rangers despite shaky pitching performance from Iwakuma

MLB: Texas Rangers at Seattle Mariners
Hoppy Easter
Jennifer Buchanan-USA TODAY Sports

“What a game.”

You probably heard this somewhere—filing out from Safeco, or on social media, or in the kitchen where you’re preparing Easter dinner. It was that type of game, the type of unlikely gem sometimes spun on a sleepy Sunday. But for the Mariners, it was probably the most important win of the season to date.

The Mariners were down to an 8.6 percent win expectancy in this game in the third inning. The seven-pitch promise of the first inning had disappated quickly as Hisashi Iwakuma struggled through the second and the third, unable to locate his fastball exactly where he wanted it. Kuma had been playing with fire in the second, allowing Mike Napoli to crush a ball that barely stayed in the yard before giving up a double to Rougned Odor that went over Guillermo Heredia’s head and then hitting Jonathan Lucroy with a pitch—a sure sign that Kuma doesn’t have his best stuff. In the next at-bat he left a curveball middle-middle that Shin-Soo Choo crushed for a three-run jack. Kuma’s struggles would continue into the next inning, giving up singles and then another double to Choo to allow the Rangers to take a 6-1 lead.

Given the anemic offensive performances we’ve seen in the beginning of the season, it would be totally understandable if you had turned off your television and tended to your Sunday activities during the little sliver of sunshine we had. But Mitch Haniger at-bats are quickly becoming must-see TV:

His three-run home run brought the Mariners to within two, and later Guillermo Heredia would tie the game up with his first home run of the year, which hopefully did not joymurder staff writer/Heredia enthusiast Isabelle Minasian:

In a nice change of pace, the bullpen, despite some wobbles, turned in five consecutive scoreless innings. Evan Marshall—aka Papa Butters—pitched 2.1 innings without allowing a hit, seemingly enjoying Safeco’s spacious confines: six of his outs came via flyout/foul pop. James Pazos took over from there and recorded two strikeouts, showing improved control despite a sometimes postage-stamp-sized strike zone. Things declined slightly from there, with Zych, Rzepczynski and Altavilla all wobbling somewhat, but Zep was able to get out of trouble with another sterling play from Haniger:

Altavilla again struggled to command his slider, but was able to lean on his fastball, which hit 98 today. He was in a bases-loaded jam, and at one point had thrown ten straight balls, before he got ahead of Elvis Andrus, who he finished off with this filthy slider:

Unfortunately, Edwin Díaz wouldn’t also be able to wiggle off the hook, also struggling with his slider command and giving up a solo shot to Nomar Mazara on a 95 mph center-cut fastball, which gave the Rangers a one-run edge as the Mariners headed to the bottom of the ninth.

I don’t know about you, but the 2017 team hasn’t yet earned my trust. I don’t feel confident that they can come back and win in clutch situations; last week’s failures are still too fresh. But the team took a huge step forward today in staying in the game the whole time. Matt Bush had finished off Seager, Motter, and Valencia tidily in the bottom of the eighth, striking out the side. With the bottom of the lineup coming up in the ninth, the Rangers went to Sam Dyson, their embattled closer. It should have been fine. It was not fine.

Pinch-hitter Jarrod Dyson showed us all what speed do when he hit a comebacker to the Lesser Dyson, who tried to barehand it and failed to throw out Jarrod at first base. If you give a Jarrod a first base he’s going to want a second base, which of course he stole without even a throw. Then Leonys Martín had one of his better plate appearances of the young season, laying a beautiful bunt down the third base line that went unfielded thanks to a mix-up between power-hitting but not great-fielding Joey Gallo and the pitcher-Dyson, which allowed the runner-Dyson to get to third. Then Martín stole second because why not? The Rangers were understandably intimidated by fearsome utility player Mike Freeman, and intentionally walked him to get to...Mitch Haniger?

Mitch Haniger has heard your jokes about how boring he is and he doesn’t care; Mitch Haniger will stand right up there against a struggling closer and take his walk. Tie game. The Mariners had two chances to get a flyout to bring the runner home from third, and those two chances rested on the shoulders of Robinson Canó and Nelson Cruz. Canó didn’t get it done. Our breaths caught, just a little. But sometimes the person who really needs to get it done is the one who has to get it done. Maybe Nelson just needed this, needed to be at the center of another teammate pigpile, wearing his Sunday best.

MLB: Texas Rangers at Seattle Mariners Jennifer Buchanan-USA TODAY Sports

Nelson got it done. The Mariners got it done, with their first home sweep of the Rangers since 2007. They’ve showed us now they can do it in 2017. What a game.