After a 21-year absence, postseason baseball will be contested in Seattle. It took a historic comeback, a well-placed bloop and an awful lot of faith to make it happen.
The Mariners escaped Toronto’s Rogers Center and their top-of-three wild card berth against the threat of the Blue Jays by erasing a seven-run deficit – just the second team in playoff history to do so – and pushing the winning run over. ninth to deliver a stunning victory, 10-9 to sweep the series and finally send the boys back to the Northwest to play in front of a thirsty hometown crowd.
The words? We will get to those, as they are amazing.
But the upside is sweet for Seattle fans: Next Saturday, the Mariners will host the Houston Astros in Game 3 of the American League Division Series, the first postseason game at what is now T-Mobile Park since the beloved, 116-win 2001 Mariners. lost Game 2 of the AL Championship Series on October 18, 2001.
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What followed were two decades of baseball darkness – a handful of strong Mariners teams not good enough to make the postseason, but mostly bad signings, bad trades, ineffective managerial hiring, a series of occasional bankruptcies and the occasional incompetent management.
This year, however, the Mariners battled to 90 wins and a spot in Major League Baseball. They got the number 5 seed, which meant they could have qualified even as the second wild card in the old format. It also earned them a trip to Toronto, the real baseball madhouse where the Blue Jays are playing well.
The Mariners put them away quickly, scoring three runs in the first inning and winning Friday’s Game 1. But after the return of former Blue Jay Robbie Ray, things took a turn for the worse – the Mariners’ $115 million signing gave up two home runs to Teoscar Hernandez. – The Mariners faced an 8-1 deficit after five innings.
A special game 3 Sunday at the Rogers Center took place. Then, quite simply, the 2022 Mariners happened.
Carlos Santana, hitting from the right side, hit a three-run homer off lefty Dominic Mayza to cap a six-run sixth. It was 8-5, and it was suddenly interesting given the Mariners’ bullpen superiority when you get past Toronto’s All-Star closer, Jordan Romano.
But the aggressive Mariners forced the Blue Jays’ hand early, getting Brian Bass to strike out three times to start the eighth inning and forcing the Jays to put Romano in the eighth, hoping for a six-game save.
Romano gave up a run to load the bases and recorded two hits, looking for a moment as if he could preserve this 9-6 lead.
Instead, lightning-hitting shortstop J.P. Crawford sent the ball into shallow center field, in a dangerous triple between multiple defenders. All-Star Bo Bichette and George Springer got together, all doves, with passion, and came up empty.
Bichette and Springer sat down, Springer leaving the game. Cal Raleigh scored. Mitch Haniger scored. Adam Frazier scored.
And Toronto endured a gut punch that would send it into the winter.
Raleigh, his hero position in Seattle playing every week, doubled to start the ninth, it was inevitable and Frazier gave the hit that sent them to Houston, an RBI single.
10-9, when it used to be 8-1.
After their staff struggled to make a comeback, rookie George Kirby was called out for the first time, ever. Hey, after two decades of flops and a huge hole crawling out, no biggie.
Three outs later, they were bound for Houston, with the first game against Justin Verlander on Tuesday. A week from now, T-Mobile Park will not be the site of a watch party, but a real, live game.
It was a long wait. The dramatic events leading up to it may have made it worthwhile.