Mariners have new weapon for late-inning chaos: a deeper bench

Aug 16, 2022, 2:50 PM

Mariners Sam Haggerty...

Sam Haggerty gestures after stealing third base against the Angels on Monday night. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

(Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

The Mariners showed off some of their trademark chaos on Monday night, using their ability to get on the bases and then apply pressure with their speed to take advantage of the Angels’ iffy defense on their way to four runs in the ninth inning of their 6-2 win.

Mariners score four runs in wild ninth inning, top Angels 6-2

Something the M’s haven’t had much of this year is a fully healthy roster and deep bench, but that’s changed in recent weeks with the returns of Mitch Haniger, Julio Rodríguez and others from injury. As a result, manager Scott Servais had more options at his disposal on Monday night, and it came in handy when veteran switch-hitter Carlos Santana pinch hit and drew a walk, then the speedy Dylan Moore took over as a pinch-runner for him at first base.

Seattle already had Sam Haggerty, another speedy runner, on third base at the time. And when Rodríguez smacked a hard line drive that Angels second baseman Luis Rengifo couldn’t catch, that’s when the chaos started. First Haggerty scored when the Angels caught him in a rundown but forgot to cover home. Then on a Ty France fielder’s choice, Seattle scored on a play at the plate where Angels catcher Max Stassi couldn’t hang onto the ball as he tried to apply the tag on a sliding Moore. As if that wasn’t enough, Rodríguez scored on a hot shot by Jesse Winker to third baseman José Rojas, who stumbled as he came up to throw. And finally, J.P. Crawford dropped a soft RBI single into shallow left for good measure.

On Tuesday’s edition of The Scott Servais Show on Seattle Sports, the skipper shared what it’s been like having his team healthier than just about any other point this season and how it helps in situations like the ninth inning on Monday night.

“I think what you’ve seen, we’re able to mix up our lineups on a daily basis, try to give some guys a day off maybe when they need it. And, more importantly, it’s really solidified our bench,” he said. “The number of guys and options I have to make late-inning substitutions or maybe (play) matchups, right vs. left at the plate, or to put in defense or speed, things like that. So getting relatively healthy, getting our guys back has allowed us to have a much deeper bench, and it gives me and our coaching staff more options later in the game to substitute guys in or whatnot, so it’s a good problem to have.”

One member of that deeper roster worth highlighting is Haggerty, who is a valuable weapon as a switch-hitter who can play the middle infield and all three outfield positions, is one of the fastest players on the team, and has shown the occasional pop at the plate. Haggerty hit a pinch-hit home run in New York that broke a 6-6 tie in an 8-6 Seattle win on Aug. 2, and while he started Tuesday, he was in the middle of the ninth inning chaos thanks to his leadoff single, advancement to second base on a throwing (and mental) error by Stassi, and a steal of third on the very next pitch.

“Guys have taken advantage of the opportunities. You know, Sam Haggerty certainly at the top of the list in what he’s been able to do, and we’ll continue to put him in there,” Servais said. “I think Sam’s at his best when he plays maybe two out of three games and then I could use them off the bench in that other game. But it seems like every game he’s in right now he does something to impact the game, whether it’s (on) the bases, defensively, get the big hit, hit the home run once in a while. So he’s been fun to watch.”

The Mariners seem to have a comfort late in close games, which certainly is a good thing for a team in the middle of a playoff race. Servais was sure to give credit to more than just the offense for Seattle’s ability to pull out wins late, though.

“We’ve played in so many of these types of games over the last couple of years that when it’s tied or maybe you’re down by a run or up by a run in the eighth or ninth inning, our guys are very comfortable being in those spots,” Servais said. “We understand that we’re going to have to have some good at-bats and execute and figure out a way to to pull it out, but there’s really no panic amongst our group, and I think that’s a tribute to our players, obviously, and the fact that we play in a ton of these games. … Lucky for us our bullpen has been outstanding all year long and our guys did a great job again last night. They keep the other team at bay, it allows our offense to get something going, and most times we’re able to get it done.”

The Scott Servais Show airs on Seattle Sports Station 710 AM on The Dugout, an hour of Bump and Stacy dedicated to Mariners interviews and analysis that takes place weekly from 1-2 p.m. every Tuesday. Listen to this week’s edition at this link or in the player below.

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