SEATTLE — On a long night of rampant whiffing by both teams, and squandered opportunities by the Mariners, the Tigers pushed across a run in the 14th inning to edge Seattle, 2-1, at Safeco Field.
The four hour and 27 minute game ended with Justin Smoak thrown out at the plate trying to score from first on Dustin Ackley’s double into the right-field corner. Catcher Brayan Pena held on to the ball as Smoak crashed into him.
“He has to send him right there,” Mariners manager Eric Wedge said of third-base coach Jeff Datz’s decision. “He made the right play. We were working all night to try to score a run.
“You’ve got a chance to potentially do it. You have to send him. You could have a bad relay, or you’ve got to try to bang at home plate and maybe he drops the ball. The catcher did a good job of hanging on to the ball.”
Five Mariners pitchers combined to strike out 21, equaling their most ever in one game. The M’s had done it twice before, both in 12 innings (against the Indians in 1986 and White Sox in 1996).
The Mariners struck out 19 times themselves, as the two teams challenged the major-league record of 43 combined whiffs. That occurred in a game between the Athletics and Angels on July 9, 1971.
“We had multiple opportunities, with one hit, to win the ballgame,” Wedge said. “Nobody really stepped up for us.”
It was also believed to be just the second time in history that two teams had 18-plus strikeouts in the same game, the other occurring on June 16, 2001, when the Giants and Padres each had 20 in a 15-inning, 4-3 Padres win.
Prince Fielder fanned five times, after striking out four times against Mariner pitchers the night before. The Tigers struck out 16 times in that game.
Detroit finally broke a 1-1 tie in the 14th. Victor Martinez led off with a single against Charlie Furbush, and former Mariner Matt Tuiasosopo drew a walk. Blake Beavan replaced Furbush, and on a sacrifice bunt attempt, catcher Jesus Montero elected to try for a force at third, but the throw was too late.
With the bases loaded and no outs, Pena hit a grounder up the middle that was snared by diving shortstop Robert Andino. But he had no other play but to first as pinch-runner Don Kelly scored the decisive run.
Beavan wriggled out of further damage, but the Mariners couldn’t get anything in the bottom of the inning against Joaquin Benoit, the eighth Tigers pitcher, despite a one-out single by Smoak.
After losing his last two starts in (for him) lackluster fashion, it was vintage Felix Hernandez in this one, as he breezed through the rugged Detroit lineup while flashing electric stuff.
But it was an old-school night at Safeco Field in another way: The Mariners provided Hernandez with little offensive support. Tigers starter Max Scherzer mowed down the Mariners just as impressively.
Hernandez gave up just an unearned run in eight brilliant innings, but it left him with a no-decision. In 241 career starts, the Mariners have given him two runs or less a staggering 122 times.
Hernandez allowed four hits, struck out 12 (one off his career high), and didn’t walk any. Scherzer also allowed one run in eight innings — his was earned — while matching Hernandez’s 12 strikeouts. He gave up six hits and walked one.
It was the first game in Safeco Field history in which both starters reached double-digits in strikeouts — and they had done so by the seventh inning in front of 14,981 fans.
Last season, Hernandez received the second-lowest run support average in the American League at 3.65, and was provided two or fewer runs of support in 18 of 33 starts. The Mariners hoped to have assembled a more potent offense this season, but thus far it has not been apparent. This was the 12th time in 16 games this season they’ve scored three runs or fewer.
Hernandez failed in his third attempt for his 100th career victory. In his past 10 starts against the Tigers, dating to July 12, 2007, he had gone 9-0 with a 2.86 earned-run average.
The Mariners squandered a golden opportunity to win the game off reliever Octavio Dotel in the bottom of the ninth.
Kendrys Morales opened the inning with a single, and Michael Morse walked. Tigers manager Jim Leyland brought in lefty Phil Coke to face Raul Ibanez, who grounded into a double play. Jason Bay, who had run for Morales, moved to third, but he stayed there when Smoak struck out.
They wasted another chance in the 10th. Jesus Montero led off the inning with a walk against Tigers reliever Brayan Villarreal, who allowed nine runs in 1-2/3 innings of work this season — a 48.60 earned-run average.
Ackley moved Montero to second base with a sacrifice. Villarreal then walked Andino, a .091 hitter. But with a full count, Franklin Gutierrez struck out on a 98-mph fastball, and reliever Darin Downs fanned Kyle Seager.