Mariners erase seven-run deficit to sweep Blue Jays, advance to ALDS - and bring playoff baseball home
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 belief to make it happen.
The Mariners escaped Toronto’s Rogers Centre and their best-of-three wild card series against the dangerous Blue Jays by erasing a seven-run deficit – just the third team in playoff history to do so – and pushing the winning run across in the top of the ninth to deliver a stunning, 10-9 victory to sweep the series and eventually send the lads back to the Northwest to play in front of a thirsty hometown crowd.
The details? We’ll get to those, as they are remarkable.
But the upshot is more delicious 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’s now T-Mobile Park since the beloved, 116-win 2001 Mariners lost Game 2 of the AL Championship Series on Oct. 18, 2001.
SCHEDULE: MLB's 2022 postseason schedule and results
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What followed were two decades of baseball darkness – a handful of solid Mariners teams simply not good enough to make the postseason, but mostly ill-fated signings, bad trades, uninspired managerial hires, a series of at times bumbling and only occasionally competent management.
This year, though, the Mariners rallied for 90 wins and a spot in Major League Baseball’s playoffs. They earned the No. 5 seed, which meant they would have qualified even as a second wild card in the old format. It also earned them a trip to Toronto, a veritable baseball madhouse when the Blue Jays are playing well.
These Mariners disarmed them quickly, striking for three runs in the first inning and winning Friday’s Game 1. But after the return of former Blue Jay Robbie Ray turned disastrous – the Mariners’ $115 million signing gave up a pair of booming home runs to Teoscar Hernandez – the Mariners faced an 8-1 deficit after five innings.
A decisive Game 3 Sunday at Rogers Centre loomed. Then, simply, the 2022 Mariners happened.
Carlos Santana, batting from the right side, banged a three-run homer off lefty reliever Dominic Mayza to highlight a six-run sixth. It was 8-5, and suddenly quite intriguing given the Mariners’ bullpen superiority once you get past Toronto’s All-Star closer, Jordan Romano.
But the ravenous Mariners forced the Blue Jays’ hand even sooner, strafing reliever Brian Bass for three hits to start the eighth inning and forcing the Jays to insert Romano in the eighth, hoping for a six-out save.
Romano gave up a hit to load the bases then recorded two strikeouts, looking for a moment like he might maintain this 9-6 lead.
Instead, light-hitting shortstop J.P. Crawford served a ball into shallow center field, right into the dreaded triangle between multiple defenders. All-Stars Bo Bichette and George Springer converged, both dove, desperately, and came up empty.
Bichette and Springer stayed down, Springer to leave the game. Cal Raleigh scored. Mitch Haniger scored. Adam Frazier scored.
And Toronto endured a gut punch that would send it into winter.
"Sometimes the ball doesn't go your way," Blue Jays interim manager John Schneider said, "and that's the part of baseball that sucks."
When Raleigh, his folk hero status in Seattle blowing up every week, doubled to start the ninth, it was almost inevitable and Frazier provided the hit that sent them to Houston, an RBI single.
10-9, when it was once 8-1.
Their staff strafed by the comeback effort, rookie George Kirby was called upon for his first save, ever. Hey, after two decades of flops and a massive hole to crawl out, no biggie.
Three outs later, they were Houston-bound, with a Game 1 date against Justin Verlander on Tuesday. A week from now, T-Mobile Park won’t be the site of a watch party, but a real, live game.
It was a long wait. The stunning events to make it happen might’ve made it worth it.