Since April, the Mariners have been pulling on a rope, hoping to get an upright piano through a window six floors up. They can see the sucker. But it’s slipped so many times. They need another tug, and some help.
After the 162nd pull Sunday, we’ll know if it’s music, or silence.
They have to beat the Angels once more, and need either the Boston Red Sox or New York Yankees to lose. If those things happen, Mitch Haniger is the Piano Man.
Seattle’s in the mood for a melody. And he’s got the town feeling alright.
“When he came off the field in the eighth inning,” said manager Scott Servais, “He just said — I think I’m pretty sure I read his lips — ‘This is not over. Let’s go.’
“Sure enough . . . “
Down 4-3 after a devastating three-run homer in the eighth by Jared Walsh off stalwart but fatigued reliever Paul Sewald, the Mariners were un-devastated by Haniger’s two-out single on a 3-2 pitch that scored two runs.
A second consecutive sellout, this one of 44,414, offered up many lungs of appreciation. After an agonizing 2-1 loss Friday night to the Angels, fans knew that another loss Saturday would eliminate the Mariners from playoff contention. The 6-4 win (box) gave life to the 19-year quest.
The hit was his fourth of the game, the RBIs his fourth and fifth of the game.
“He’s a monster,” said starting pitcher Chris Flexen. “He’s tearing it up. “
Said Servais: “The Haniger game is what we can call this one.”
The Haniger game also added chaos in MLB. The Mariners’ dramatic come-from-behind win gave them a 90-71 record, same as the Toronto Blue Jays. The Yankees and Red Sox are tied at 91-70.
All four teams will bid for two playoff spots by playing separate opponents simultaneously Sunday (12:15 p.m. in the west, 3:15 p.m. in the east) in the final games of the regular season. What happens at the end of the games is akin to carnival bumper cars:
If Red Sox and Yankees both win, Mariners and Blue Jays are eliminated
If either Red Sox or Yankees lose, and Blue Jays lose, Mariners are in a two-team tie; if Blue Jays win, Mariners are in a three-team tie
If both Red Sox and Yankees lose, and Blue Jays lose, Mariners are in a three-team tie; if Blue Jays win, Mariners are in a four-team tie
Any ties will be broken through the use of a formula for a play-in game Monday ahead of the wild-card games starting Tuesday. I would explain the formula here, but by the time I wrote it and you understood it, the Sunday games will be over and some teams already on their way to 163rd game(s).
It’s easier to enjoy Haniger.
Besides the eigth-inning single, he hit a two-run homer in the fifth. He leads the majors with 45 RBI in the seventh inning or later, when he’s hitting (entering Saturday’s game) .271 with six doubles, 14 homers and 20 walks. For the season, he has 39 homers, 100 RBIs and 110 runs scored, all career bests.
“You you can’t say enough about him, and it’s not just tonight,” said 3B Kyle Seager, who drove in an insurance run behind Haniger with a single. “I mean, you don’t get to those numbers without doing it all year.
“The surgeries he went through, the things he’s had to do, it’s truly incredible. He’s very gifted athletically, and he knows how to figure out what he has to do to make himself better. The amount of time and energy that he puts into his craft is truly second to none.”
The Saturday thriller wasn’t all Haniger, of course. It never has been with this team that has been half-plan and half-52-card-pickup. Once again, the group pulled it out late and low, after some fans turned their backs and headed out upon Walsh’s homer.
“Our team, we don’t quit,” Servais said. “We haven’t done it all year. We’ve had chances to quit and pack it in, but we never have. We didn’t do it tonight. The credit goes to our players. They keep grinding.
“We’ve still got something to play for in Game 162.”