Kendrys Morales has little good to recall about his last walk-off home run, after which he broke his leg jumping on home plate. Sunday at Safeco Field, he tippy-toed across the dish into the arms of his teammates, who pounded him in celebration of his first-pitch, pinch-hit homer that downed the Oakland A’s 6-3 in 10th inning.
The walk-off win gave the series to the Mariners 2-1 and extended their season advantage over the A’s, who have been leading AL West, to 8-5 — compared to a 5-4 disadvantage against the Houston Astros. Go figure.
Morales had the day off until the 10th, when the Mariners had singles from Michael Saunders and rookie Mike Zunino to put pressure on A’s closer Grant Balfour. Manager Eric Wedge elected to hold back No. 9 hitter Brendan Ryan for Morales.
“He had his (batting) helmet on in the sixth inning,” Wedge said. “He was ready to go in there.”
Morales took a low fast ball nearly 400 feet to right center, his ninth homer of the year.
The drama overshadowed a couple of big moments for Raul Ibanez, whose solo homer in the first and two-run homer in the fourth gave the Mariners all their runs until Morales beat Balfour for his first loss of the season, and first since June 20, 2012.
Ibanez has 15 homers in his past 37 games and includes eight in June, which leads the American League. With more than half a season remaining, Ibanez’s 17 is the sixth-most in a single season for a 41-year-old. The list is topped by the 29 of Red Sox legend Ted Williams.
Ibanez is the career leader in home runs at Safeco with 77, 72 as a Mariner. He is the second-oldest Mariner to have a two-homer game, behind only Edgar Martinez.
Morales’ blow came too late to get a win for starter Jeremy Bonderman, who wasn’t quite as dominant as he had been but nevertheless gave Seattle 5.1 innings, allowing two runs on six hits and three walks.
Down 3-0 in the sixth, the A’s worked Bonderman for a pair of runs. Seth Smith and Jed Lowrie opened with singles. Bonderman nudged slugger Yoenis Cespedes into a ground-ball force-out at third, but Brandon Moss singled to load the bases.
Bonderman threw a wild pitch way past Josh Donaldson that brought in the first run. When Donaldson walked to reload bases on Bonderman’s 97th pitch, Wedge brought in reliever Danny Farquhuar. He induced two ground ball outs to second base, but the first one scored another run.
“I just didn’t have the beraking ball at all today, really,” said Bonderman. “Sometimes, you don’t have everything working. Those guys make you work.”
In the eighth, Moss tied the game with a two-out solo homer off Farquhar on a 3-1 pitch. Oliver Perez pitched the ninth and 10th, allowing only one walk, to get the win. Perez has not allowed a run in his last 13 outings.
Morales’ game-winner woke the disturbing echo from May 29, 2010 in Anaheim, when he hit a walk-off grand slam to beat the Mariners 5-1, but his leap to the plate found a teammate’s foot. The impact broke his leg and he missed the rest of 2010. Complications from the ankle surgery cost him 2011 as well, and he didn’t return to action until March 22, 2012.
Gutierrez’s pain explained
Bad news came after the sixth inning when CF Franklin Gutierrez was lifted because of tightness in his legs. In the fourth inning, he bounced off the wall after making a running catch, but seemed fine after the modest impact.
“We’ll rest him a couple of days,” Wedge said.
After a long, mysterious stint on the disabled list, Gutierrez returned to the lineup Saturday night and hit a home run and a double in four at-bats. Before the game, he explained to reporters that doctors finally discovered that he has a genetic disorder that causes inflammation and arthritis-like pain in his joints and other body parts, including his eyes. Medication was prescribed, and it’s working.
“It took about three or four weeks to start feeling better,” he said. “I didn’t know what I had and they didn’t know either. They found out that it caused all these things. As soon as I started the medicine, I started feeling better and better and better.”
Gutierrez, 30, couldn’t remember the name of the condition. He went on the disabled list April 22 with a strained hamstring, but he had been experiencing season-long pain in his legs and hips.
They finally figured out what was going on,” Gutierrez said. “It wasn’t their fault, because they’re doing a really good job on me, doing everything I ask them to do. I guess we got to the time where they found out what it is, and I’m feeling much better.
“So many people didn’t know about this, and we didn’t need to talk about it until now. Obviously, I don’t want to make a big deal about this, but it’s what’s been happening. It’s been a long time. I’ve been having a long rehab. I’ve had some issues with my legs. It hasn’t been easy for me. I’m feeling much better.”
Wedge often lamented the loss of Gutierrez, who would have locked up an outfield position and eased the depth issues that have caused Ibanez and Jason Bay, originally the fourth and fifth outfielders, getting many more starts than the plan out of spring training.
Wedge said Sunday that Gutierrez is a difference-maker that “we’ve missed more than anybody.” In the 16 games he had at the beginning of the season, Gutierrez had four home runs and was hitting .259.