His career given up for done after a long series of injuries and ailments, OF Franklin Gutierrez had a magnificent comeback Tuesday at Comerica Park — a pinch-hit grand slam, only the second in club history, to beat the Tigers 11-9 in the Mariners’ wildest game of the season (box score). The Mariners led 4-0, fell behind 8-6 and then Gutierrez in the eighth whipsawed it again.
Setting up the astonisher: Against reliever Neftali Feliz and trailing 8-6, Austin Jackson beat out an infield single and Kyle Seager singled to left. After Nelson Cruz popped out, Robinson Cano singled to center to load the bases for Seth Smith. A wild pitch scored Jackson. Smith was intentionally walked to reload the bases.
Pinch-hitting for SS Chris Taylor, Gutierrez, in his 38th plate appearance after three months in the minors, turned on a 95 mph fastball, helping decide a four-hour game that had 26 hits and used 13 pitchers.
Starter Taijuan Walker was given a four-run lead in the first inning, but squandered it against No. 1-hitting offense in the American League. He allowed three home runs, including a two-run shot by Mariners killer Yoenis Cespedes (18 career homers against Seattle) that tied the game at 5 in the fifth. Walker gave up seven hits and six runs.
The pen gave up three more runs, including a bases-loaded walk from Tom Wilhelmsen, before Carson Smith came on to get a four-out save.
Cano had three hits and Jackson and Seager two each. Almost as important, they struck out only five times against the Tigers, who have the No. 14-ranked ERA in the AL. Cruz hit a monster home run to dead center in the third inning, his first since July 3. The Mariners were six for 12 with RISP, a season high.
Cespedes hit his 14th homer of the season and 18th of his career against the Mariners, which have helped produce 39 RBIs against Seattle.
“When you are a pinch-hitter, you have to be ready for any pitch. I’m not thinking about anything but putting a good swing on the ball.” — Gutierrez
“I can’t event recount what happened . . . I just wanted the veteran (Gutierrez) up there in that situation. You know you’re going to get a quality at-bat. You gotta slow things down and get your breathing right.” — Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon.
The Mariners have played 35 one-run games this season (18-17 record), tied with the White Sox for the most in the American League . . . For the second year in a row, the MLB players union chose Seager as the Mariners’ nominee for the 11th annual Heart and Hustle Award, which honors active players who demonstrate a passion for the game and best embody the values, spirit and tradition of the game. It’s the only MLB award voted on by former players. Winner will be announced Nov. 10 . . . Cano hit seven homers in his past 23 games heading into Tuesday after totaling just two in his first 67 games of the season . . . Cruz had two hits in his previous 20 plate appearances – both singles — with two walks and seven strikeouts prior to being hit by a pitch Tuesday, then hitting a pitch a long way in the third. His last homer was 57 plate appearances ago.
Game three of the series is 4:08 p.m. PT Wednesday. Seattle sends LHP Mike Montgomery (4-3, 2.51 ERA) against Anibal Sanchez (9-7, 4.55).