Game 49 // Seventh Inning, San Diego // Mariners Run Wild

BOTTOM OF THE SEVENTH: MARINERS 16 (7) – 12 PADRES

 

It’s the battle of the continental geographic corners: far northwest against far southwest. Seattle against San Diego. Get Miami in the ring and all we’ll then need is…checks Google Maps… Caribou, Maine—and we’ll have sport’s newest four-way tournament set to go.

The Mariners, by the way, are the best of this hypothetical four—haven’t lost a series all season. But they’re a little stuck, down 12-2 in the sixth. Then a big inning to make it 12-7. Nine outs to go. Five-run deficit. And Ryan Buchter trotting in from the Padres’ bullpen, as I hear this from one of the San Diego TV guys:

“Time for the bullpen to get down, get dirty, get nasty.”

Pause. Huh??

Not too familiar with this guy’s sense of humor, but that one’s officially in the running for best on-air innuendo—still a ways behind Jason Terry’s courtside interview amid a ’11 Mavericks sweep of the Lakers: “We’ve been able to penetrate their bigs, get deep, suck the D in…”

So Buchter comes in, a sterling 0.77 ERA on the year, with a five-run lead and Shawn O’Malley up first for Seattle.

A quick 3-0 count, then flipped back the other way with a clever strikeout on a slider trailing inside. O’Malley looking lost, an off-balance whiff, and he shuffles back to the dugout with Nori Aoki striding up for the M’s.

One out. 12-7 game. Aoki looking for a rally. Something something “Everything will be A-OK.”

Meanwhile the Padres’ color guy starts up again, this time with some sort of hot sauce ad:

“Let’s see what kind of Cholula Hot Sauce our reliever’s got tonight,” he says, as he checks the speed-gun readout. “NINETY-FOUR!! Very spicy, yo!”

So Aoki steps in against a red-hot, spicy-hot Ryan Buchter, and he gets a fastball on the inside corner. He slaps at it, just gets a piece, and it rolls fair down the third-base line like an unintentional bunt. Buchter runs over, snags it, spins, and the ball flops out as his arm whips over toward first—his body on a delay, like a pantomimed forceout with the ball on the ground and Aoki hustling in to first base.

Seattle’s got some sort of base-hit celebration going on, with Aoki looking back to the dugout, making an X with his arms, sawing as if through a block of wood. Not quite as cool as the Diamondbacks’ “drive the bus” routine, but they’re getting there.

Franklin Gutierrez comes up now, in to pinch-hit for Seth Smith, the former Padre outfielder. Gutierrez walks. Solarte trots over from third to check on Buchter.“You good?”

Now Robinson Cano, and it’s getting interesting. Maybe the AL’s best hitter—48 RBIs to lead the league.

Pink bubble gum popping. Green grass stain on the pants. A corps of navy sailors filling up a full section in the stands. A full-grown “bro” in the crowd, with a straw sun hat and loose gray sweater. Collared shirt underneath. Shades clipped to his collar. Another man gnawing on a single Twizzler behind home plate.

And Cano is hit. A screamer up and inside, twisting to avoid a direct hit in the chin, and he’s knocked straight on the knuckles, dropping to the floor.

Buchter takes his cap off and runs his hand through his hair. Cano makes his way up, walks in pain to first, clenching his hand, as the ump issues a warning to the mound.

Nelson Cruz up now, maybe the last guy you’d want to face in this spot. And what are the odds—three historically notable surnames in a row, turned given names, wheeled out in the heart of the Mariners’ order? Franklin to Robinson to Nelson, and I’m half-expecting a Roosevelt Perez to trot out next, ahead of a Taft Rodriguez. Einstein Lopez.

A big whiff from Cruz on a home-run cut, as the TV cuts to a three-way split screen, the bases loaded, all three runners on base without a single, squared-up hit.

Pads’ catcher Derek Norris gives the signs to Buchter, his fingers flickering with yellow nail tape behind home. Cruz fouls off a fastball on a big hack. Then, another foul. And another. Another. Another. Pitch nine of the at-bat coming up. Another foul.

And, finally, a changeup. A big swing, a big miss, and Buchter stumbles his way into the second out, the ball sinking low toward the dirt just into the glove of Norris. Cruz dejected, Buchter relieved—a big, big, big relief at that.

12-7 lead still. He’s all good.

Then, without announcement, all hell breaks loose. With Kyle Seager coming up to the plate, and M’s hitting coach Edgar Martinez giddy with a premonition of continuing rally.

On a 1-1 count, Seager knocks a low line-drive to right, striking the infield dirt between first and second, just under the glove of a diving Adam Rosales. Two runs score. Buchter is gone.

And from the on-deck circle comes trouble. The man instilling fear in a whole league of pitching staffs, whose clutch-hitting reputation struts proudly in front of his voluminous belly like a custom, one-of-a-kind superpower.

Dae-Ho Lee. The Great, the Surprising, the Borderline Obese. A three-run homer an inning earlier. And from somewhere in the upper decks of Petco Park, the sound that’s taken Seattle by storm, the migratory call of two Seattlites who’ve found their way to southern California. The goofy, stoked, warbling sounds of drunken, ballpark America at night.

“Daeeeeeyyy-Ho, Daeeeeeyy-Ho!!”

Lee steps in, confidence incarnate, his bat wagging over his shoulder and the fresh memory of a home run off this very pitcher just a week earlier (Brandon Maurer now).

He gets a low fastball, and the legend of “Big Boy” continues, slapping a single the other way on a patient inside-out swing. Another run scores, line drive to right field in front of Matt Kemp. Lee on first now removing his gloves, doing the “X.”

And what came next was massacre.

Chris Iannetta, lofting a sharp-sinking changeup—somehow—into left field, one hand off the bat. 12-11. And a stat, on the brink of erasure, from the TV broadcast: The Padres have never blown a lead of 10 runs in their history.

Stefen Romero pinch-hits a line-drive single into center, on an easy fastball. 12-12, tie game, a full dozen apiece.

“I have seen a lot of comebacks,” I hear on the Padres’ telecast, “but this…is unbelieveable.”

Closer to the slugging-heavy duels of Coors Field, far from a normal Petco Park game—the rules changed, the cages unlocked, pets running loose around the store in a chaotic unending rally, with boos pouring out now in rounds from the home-crowd faithful.

Matt Thornton comes to relieve Maurer, now into the dregs of the San Diego bullpen.

Shawn O’Malley comes up again, as the Mariners have batted around. Ryan Buchter’s in the dugout biting his nails, hoping for the no-decision.

Another base-hit into center. Soft line-drive. 13-12, Mariners now lead, and the dugout giddy with maniacal smiles.

“You have got to be shamin’ me… one of the most incredible things I’ve seen.”

Incredible enough, apparently, that the Padres’ TV guys refer to Dae-Ho Lee, more than once, as “Ho-Lee”—a mistake about as goofy as calling Mike Trout “Ketrout.”

Nori Aoki comes up again. Unfurls a classic Japanese-style compact swing, slapping an inside-out line-drive to the Ramirez at short, and it’s through to the outfield for another hit. The “X” routine once again on first base. And a 14-12 lead. Five two-out singles in a row.

Franklin Gutierrez up again.

Not sure, by this point, if I should be bored or excited. Turn on the online stream for Curtin FM, favorite radio station from my time in distant Perth, Australia—and soundtrack to the early days of this site. The Beatles are on, “Lady Madonna,” pretty good soundtrack. Tuesday’s afternoon Thursday’s seventh inning is never ending…”

Brandon Maurer’s in the dugout now, looking a hot mess, hands running through sweat-drenched hair. Two relievers on the hook for a massive San Diego implosion.

Aoki sneaks into second. “Let’s gooo Mariners!!” from somewhere in the Petco Park upper decks.

A bouncing ground-ball up the middle. Just over the glove of thornton. Bounce, bounce bouncing its way into center field. Two more M’s come in to score, an “avalanche of singles,” and the final blow of a nine-run inning.

A blue sigh of sadness from Padres’ fans.

16-12.

And a final, easy ground-ball to Rosales. Three outs. The long nightmare ends, a 14-run swing in about 45 minutes of agony.

Mariners on their way up, Padres on their way—where exactly?

 

 

Previously:

7th Inning: SEA vs. OAK

10th Inning: SEA vs. TEX

6th Inning: LAD vs. MIA

5th Inning: HOU vs. BOS

7th Inning: BAL vs. BOS

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