BRANDON GUSTAFSON

‘It was the craziest thing ever’: Mariners end playoff drought and party is on

Sep 30, 2022, 11:29 PM | Updated: Oct 1, 2022, 12:57 am
Mariners...
Cal Raleigh #29 of the Seattle Mariners celebrates his walk-off home run against the Oakland Athletics at T-Mobile Park on September 30, 2022. (Steph Chambers/Getty Images)
(Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

Seattle fans, here are the words you’ve been waiting 21 long years to hear: Your Seattle Mariners are playoff bound.

The drought is over – Raleigh HR walks it off for Mariners

With just one swing of the bat from catcher Cal Raleigh, more than two decades of frustration evaporated and one of the biggest parties the city of Seattle has ever seen kicked into full gear, complete with the biggest dance circle the Mariners have broken out this year.

“I remember the moment when I knew it was fair, and then looking at the team and everybody’s jumping. It was just crazy,” Raleigh said postgame.

As for crossing home plate into the embrace of his teammates?

“It was the craziest thing ever. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to forget that moment.”

Friday night, circumstances aside, was a pretty typical 2022 Mariners game, complete with great starting pitching and clutch hitting.

The ninth inning started with a 1-2-3 inning from rookie reliever Matt Brash, and after the third out, every fan stood on their feet, stomping, clapping and singing along to Queen’s “We Will Rock You.” A few moments later, Raleigh’s pinch-hit home run sailed over the right field fence, ending the longest active playoff drought in MLB and major North American sports.

The reaction on the field after the home run was unbelievable. And you bet that it carried over into the Mariners’ clubhouse, where beer and champagne poured like a Pacific Northwest storm and cigar smoke clouded the air.

“Champagne and beer never tasted so sweet,” pitcher Marco Gonzales, the longest-tenured Mariner, said after the big win. “A lot of people worked really really hard for this a long time. Even when times were dark and we didn’t see the light at the end of the tunnel and a lot of people believed when they didn’t have a reason to. So this is for them.”

While Gonzales is a Mariners veteran, Eugenio Suárez joined the organization this spring in a big trade with Cincinnati. The slugging third baseman called making the playoffs in Seattle “a big honor” to be a part of.

“I’m so happy, so glad because they brought me to here to help the team make the playoffs and that’s why we celebrate here,” he said.

Suárez, who is known for his “Good Vibes Only” mentality, had quite the reaction to Raleigh’s home run.

“That made me crazy … That was big time,” he said.

Since acquiring veteran infielder Carlos Santana, the Mariners have celebrated with a group dance after wins. After Raleigh’s blast? The whole team and coaching staff joined in.

“We are together. We’re family. It’s not only the players, it’s everybody,” Suárez said. “So that’s why we celebrate in the middle of the field.”

Someone who Friday night meant a lot to was reliever Matthew Boyd, a Seattle-area native who grew up rooting for the Mariners. He was traded to his hometown franchise at this year’s trade deadline and is now a member of the team that ended the playoff drought that hung over the organization for more than two decades.

“It’s hard to even put into words. This is amazing,” Boyd said. “The fact that we get to be here in this moment, it’s just like, it’s unreal. It’s so special. It’s a dream come true for a kid that grew up here.”

The Mariners already had a lengthy playoff drought when general manager/president of baseball operations Jerry Dipoto and staff kicked off a full-scale rebuild after just missing out on the postseason in 2018.

Dipoto and manager Scott Servais have stressed that making the postseason is just the beginning for this club, but he spoke at length about what ending the drought means.

“It’s amazing, but it’s just the next step. We set out to win a World Series and we want to win the World Series, and this is the first step,” Dipoto said. “I know the guys feel the same way. But you should celebrate the wins, and this is special. We’ve waited a long time, we worked hard, everybody contributed in so many ways … We deserve this moment and so does the city.”

The Mariners had yet to make the postseason in Dipoto’s first six years in Seattle, but the team came close a few times. The fans, Dipoto said, were always there.

“Our town shows up. They pour out and they support us and and right now we have a fun team to watch,” he said. “And I think we caught their attention, and it’s fun to be at the ballpark. And we’re having just as much fun as they are.”

Servais, rocking a backwards hat, goggles and drenched clothes, addressed the sellout crowd after the game well after Raleigh’s home run clinched the postseason berth.

“Every day when the game starts, I look up at those banners,” Servais said, pointing to Seattle’s banners celebrating AL West titles and AL Championship Series appearances. “We need to add another one. Yes, we’ve ended the drought, (but) this team’s just starting.”

After lovingly shouting “Let’s party!” to the tens of thousands still packed at T-Mobile Park, Servais talked more about the banners to reporters.

“I came out here today and I went and sat in the upper deck by myself,” he said. ” … I went up there and just sat by myself. It was a perfect day here today. And I just start staring at the banners, and I said it needs to change. Today’s the day. And that’s what I meant. I felt it yesterday, we were gonna get it done tonight. And thank God we did.”

Servais said this group of Mariners players have bought in and have an incredible belief in one another.

“We have a group right now that believes in each other and what we’re doing and what we’re trying to do here,” he said. “And I said it earlier today, we have a lot of baseball yet ahead of us. So we did end the drought tonight, which is a very special feeling. There’s so many kids that grew up in the Pacific Northwest that don’t know anything about the Mariners being in the playoffs, and now we get to show them.”

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