OAKLAND, Calif. – They sat on the verge of being swept in perhaps their most important series of the 2018 season to date. And that third straight defeat to the Oakland A’s would’ve come in the most embarrassing of ways – failing to score for basically 12 innings, if not more.
But the Mariners were pulled from that abyss of frustration, failed at-bats and stranded baserunners by the home-run hitting power of Dee Gordon in what became a 2-0 victory.
Yes, Dee Gordon.
No, it’s not a typo – “home-run hitting power.”
With one-out in the top of the 12th, Mike Zunino on first base and facing A’s long reliever Yusmeiro Petit, Gordon ambushed a first-pitch changeup from the veteran right-hander, pulling a long fly ball that carried over the wall in right field for a two-run homer to break a 0-0 tie. The swirling winds of the decaying concrete fortress known as the Oakland Coliseum seemed to provide a little push.
“I got lucky,” Gordon said sheepishly. “It’s evening out. I’ve been lining out so much for the last month. Hopefully, it’s a sign of things to come.”
It was just his second homer of the season and it came in the Mariners’ 122nd game of 2018. Gordon’s first homer – a similar blast – occurred on April 1 in the Mariners’ third game of the season, against the Indians. He went a span of 460 plate appearances between homers because, well, he isn’t a home-run hitter.
Did he think it was a homer off the bat?
“I thought so,” he said. “But I’m not going to lie, it creeped in my head, ‘they’ve been catching everything you hit, so he might catch it.’ ”
His manager was a little more certain.
“The way the ball was carrying to right field and during the day, I knew it,” Scott Servais said. “Before it, did I know he was going to hit a homer? No. But when it came off the bat, I knew it had a good chance. The ball carries during the day.”
Though power may not be his forte, he knows how to celebrate like a power hitter. After a series of high fives, Gordon kissed each of his biceps as his teammates celebrated around him.
“I was messing with Cam (Maybin) and D (Denard) Span because they keep calling me skinny and I had to let them know I had some guns,” Gordon said. “And it was a big situation. It was the 12th inning. We are in a playoff race and I’m having fun.”
Mariners closer Edwin Diaz allowed a leadoff single in the bottom of the 12th but came back to strike out the next three batters to notch his 47th save of the season. Seattle’s bullpen covered the final four innings of the game without allowing a run.
“This win was very important,” Gordon said. “These last seven games we’ve played a lot better.”
The extra-innings win – Seattle’s 11th in 12 games this season – helped salvage a frustrating series that saw the Mariners lose the first two games by one run. The Mariners improved to 70-52 and trimmed a game off Oakland’s lead in the second wild card to 2 1/2 games. They wrapped up the 10-game road trip with a 6-4 record. They’ll have Thursday off before opening a three-game series with the Dodgers at Safeco Field.
“It was a really nice win, but we don’t even get in that spot if Mike Leake doesn’t do what he did,” Servais said. “Unbelievable quality start. I think he had six 1-2-3 innings. He was really on top of his game today. We needed it. We needed every pitch and every out from him.”
Leake was brilliant, pitching eight shutout innings and allowing just two hits with one walk and six strikeouts. He basically cruised through seven of his eight innings. He allowed three baserunners and only one made it into scoring position. It was the fourth time this season in which he’s pitched eight innings or more and allowed two runs or fewer. Only Indians ace Corey Kluber has more starts of eight-innings plus with five.
His only real issue came in the fourth inning when Nick Martini lined a leadoff triple to right center and Matt Chapman worked a walk. But Leake, who never seems to panic in those situations, came back to strike out Jed Lowrie, Khris Davis and Matt Olson – the A’s No. 3-4-5 hitters – to end the inning.
“Chapman was the guy that scared me initially so I was okay with kind of working around him,” Leake said. “I knew I had to either get a strikeout or a double play to help the team out. Fortunately it was three strikeouts.”
Oakland starter Brett Anderson was almost as good, pitching 7 2/3 shutout innings, allowing five hits with now walks and two strikeouts. The Mariners had runners on first and second with one out in the first inning against Anderson, but Nelson Cruz bounced a ball to third base – the last place you want to hit a ball vs. the A’s – and third baseman Matt Chapman turned it into an inning-ending double play.
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