Thoughts on the Mariners’ biggest comeback in team history
ARLINGTON, Texas – Some quick thoughts on the Mariners’ historic 16-13 comeback win in San Diego, the first being: that really happened.
In a 10-day span in which we saw the team set a season high for runs in an inning at six and then do it again a few days later, the five-run sixth inning Thursday night perhaps should not have been a surprise. But a nine-run seventh?
Back it up a bit. The Mariners were down 10 runs and not looking particularly good. Wade Miley was not sharp, balls were falling in for hits, and let’s not forget that the team suffered its worst loss of the season the day before. Two days earlier, the Mariners lost Felix Hernandez to injury and just that afternoon, the team learned that one of the clubhouse leaders, reliever Joel Peralta, had been designated for assignment. It didn’t exactly have the feel of a game in which they would bounce back if they were down, let alone down by 10 runs.
Take emotion and circumstances out of the situation and the numbers agreed. After the fifth inning, while leading 12-2, the Padres had a 99.9 percent chance to win the game, according to FanGraphs. FanGraphs, meet the 2016 Mariners.
The foundation of the comeback was built in the fifth inning in somewhat expected fashion. A couple of guys got hits, Seth Smith took a walk, Kyle Seager doubled and Dae-Ho Lee came off the bench and homered. In other words, guys got on and other guys got big hits. What happened the next inning was not so expected.
Not so expected at all, in fact. It was so improbable that I had to abandon my scorecard and jot down the entire inning at-bat by at-bat on a separate sheet of paper because I couldn’t believe what I had just seen. I scrolled back on Gameday three times to see for sure that the Mariner scored nine two-out runs in that inning on seven singles. I have to believe that has never been done before in Major League history.
Seven consecutive singles for nine runs by the team that leads MLB in home runs was an absolute spectacular display of the “conga line” that general manager Jerry Dipoto first talked about last fall. One guy after the other came up to the plate and put up good at-bat after good at-bat. From Nelson Cruz’s 11-pitch out to Stefen Romero laying off a tough pitch to get to 3-2 before hitting the game-tying single, it was the perfect display of not trying to do too much and keeping it going with two outs. When all was said and done, Padres pitchers threw 66 pitches in that inning alone.
There was success up and down the lineup, perhaps most impressively from the bench. The Mariners’ bench players, who have contributed all year long, went 6 for 8 with eight RBIs, including the tying and go-ahead runs as well as the home run by Lee that many in the clubhouse said got it all going. Lee’s performance, if you were wondering, won him the Swelmet.
Another player on the bench never got to swing a bat but played an impact role. Both manager Scott Servais and Seager credited Leonys Martin for helping keep things going.
“He was incredible tonight,” Seager said of Martin, who’s on the disabled list but made the trip to San Diego. “He was on the top step cheering the whole game. The game looked over and he was still yelling. He was pretty special, too.”
I am fairly certain I have never heard a team credit an injured teammate for helping in a win, but Martin was just as much a part of that game as any of his teammates. One staffer said he should get the “Top Step Swelmet.” Even Felix, who was left back in Seattle after his calf injury, was included in the postgame celebration as Franklin Gutierrez, Robinson Cano and Luis Sardinas chatted with him over FaceTime from the clubhouse. As I tweeted after witnessing the scene, this is a team.
When all was said and done, the Mariners left San Diego with their biggest comeback win in club history. Three ridiculously lopsided games between the two clubs totaled out to the Mariners beating the Padres by a touchdown, 38-31. The game Thursday saw the most runs in Petco Park history. The comeback win for the Mariners was the biggest lead ever squandered by the Padres.
Finally, the Mariners became the first team to win a game in which they trailed by at least 10 runs after at least five innings since the Indians did so in 2001. You remember that one, don’t you? You should because the Mariners were on the wrong end of it.
Good stuff all around and there’s more on tap. In just a few hours, the Mariners will start a series against the co-leaders in the division.
Are we having fun yet?