As tension built in the later innings of tonight’s game, the tens of thousands of fans in attendance would urge their team with chants. A battle between groups, “Let’s go Yankees” and “Let’s go Mariners,” bounced back and forth between sections like punches exchanged between fighters. Even before the 100th game of the year has been played, this game felt noticeably important.
The Mariners dropped the first two games of this four game set, making tonight feel like a must-win. You could see the urgency in the way the players played. Tonight’s game, while highlighted by big home runs and offensive firepower, I believe was won defensively.
After issuing a leadoff walk, Ariel Miranda allowed a sharp liner off the bat of Clint Frazier into left field. Gamel came up firing and caught Frazier trying to stretch a double.
Miranda would retire the next two batters, leaving a runner on third.
Later in the game, the Yankees were threatening to retake the lead in the eighth inning. Gary Sanchez stepped to the plate with runners on the corners and two outs. He squared up a liner to right field, seemingly to put New York on top 5-4. Mitch Haniger had different plans:
Kyle Seager also flashed some leather at third base, including this beautiful diving grab:
On a night where Mariners pitchers combined to surrender five extra base hits, defense helped cut opposing opportunities short and navigate through trouble.
Offensively, Seattle’s bats, which slumbered through the first two games of the series, were loud in tonight’s showdown. Masahiro Tanaka was missing bats and forcing grounders during the first couple frames, but was later punished by what’s plagued him all season long: the long ball.
Mike Zunino worked a full count to begin the third inning, and was offered a waist-high fastball for the seventh pitch of the at bat. It landed a long ways away.
A couple batters later, Ben Gamel jumped on a first pitch curveball and parked it over the right field fence.
The Mariners kept their foot on the gas in the third, eventually scoring two runs on a pair of singles from Danny Valencia and Mitch Haniger, giving Seattle a 4-1 lead.
The Yankees would not go down without a fight, though. Garrett Cooper ended up with a fifth-inning triple on a scary play in the outfield.
Fortunately, Jarrod Dyson got up and finished the inning in centerfield before being given the rest of the night off. Cooper would come around to score on a sac fly later in the inning.
Strong human being and dinger destroyer Aaron Judge would ax the lead to one just an inning later by launching a Steve Cishek fastball for an opposite field home run.
David Phelps made his Mariner debut, and looked fantastic. He retired all four batters he faced, struck out two, and touched 96 twice. He was pulled, however, with one out left in the eighth in favor of Marc Rzepczynski. Scrabble allowed an infield single to Brett Gardner before being replaced by Nick Vincent. A double and sac-fly later, the Mariners were tied up at 4-4.
The Mariners bats would strike back, as Robinson Cano took a first-pitch fastball and drove it the other way for a solo homer:
With a reclaimed 5-4 lead, Edwin Diaz came in to close the door in the ninth. The first batter he faced, Didi Gregorius, earned a six-pitch walk. Live, ball four looked like strike three, but this chart of the at bat shows otherwise. That said, ball four didn’t miss by much. In fact, none of the balls missed by much.
If any of those calls goes the other way or Gregorius chases one, he may have never ended up on first. Instead, Jacoby Ellsbury would come onto pinch run and steal second base. Eventually, Diaz was one strike away from wrapping tonight’s game up; however, Ronald Torreyes fought a 1-2 fastball into left field, bringing Ellsbury home from second.
The Mariners couldn’t manufacture a run in the ninth, giving way to extra innings. Tony Zych navigated through the heart of the Yankees lineup, sitting Clint Frazier and Judge down looking on knee-high heaters. He would finish the frame by forcing a groundout off the bat of Matt Holliday.
Ben Gamel wasted no time starting the bottom of the 10th, clobbering a slider to the base of the wall in center field. An intentional walk of Robinson Cano put two on for Cruz with nobody out. Cruz worked a hitters’ count, and jumped on a slider on the outer half of the plate into left field. Ball game.
The energy of tonight’s game was phenomenal. You could feel the competitive spirit caused by the wild card implications of tonight’s game. The Mariners gritted their way to victory and have a chance to split the series with a win tomorrow.
Until then, Go M’s.