SEATTLE — A sore, exhausted Kyle Seager stumbled in from the training room to dissect a marathon loss that stretched nearly six hours in length.
Seager had catapulted the Mariners to the highest of highs in the 14th inning of Wednesday’s contest by becoming the first player in Major League Baseball history to hit a tying grand slam in extra innings. But that only made the agony of a 7-5 defeat in 16 innings to the Chicago White Sox all that much tougher to swallow for a Mariners squad denied their first sweep of the season.
And well after the five-hour, 42-minute affair was done, Seager stressed the importance of the Mariners forgetting a loss among the more memorable in the franchise’s existence.
“It was a tough game, obviously,” Seager said. “It was a real good game. A hard fought game. We had some opportunities early in the game where we weren’t able to quite get a run across.”
Later, he added: “If you look at the big picture, we still won the series. We still took two out of three. It was an emotional game, but we had some emotional peaks there as well. So, hopefully, we can continue over into tomorrow.”
Those few thousand fans remaining among the initial 20,139 at Safeco Field saw Alejandro De Aza single to center off Hector Noesi to bring the go-ahead run home in the 16th. De Aza would later add a valuable insurance marker when Alex Rios chopped an infield single toward third base.
The game had already equaled the Seattle franchise mark for the longest scoreless affair in history by the time the two teams squared off in the 14th. That’s when the White Sox erupted for a five-spot off Danny Farquhar and Noesi to send fans scurrying for the exits.
But the Mariners, down 5-0 with one out and none on in the bottom of the frame, picked themselves up off the mat. They notched four straight singles off White Sox closer Addison Reed, the last of those by Endy Chavez that got the Mariners on the board.
One out later, Seager came up with the bases still full, got down two strikes, then fouled the next pitch off his toe. He stumbled around in the home plate area, tried to shake it off, then stepped back in and took a high pitch for a ball.
The next pitch, he didn’t miss, crushing the ball over the wall in right center. His teammates leaped from the dugout in disbelief to congratulate him as he rounded the bases.
“It was definitely a very exciting moment, just to tie the game up,” Seager said. “Being down five runs right there, that was very big. It was very exciting, obviously.”’’
The Mariners became the first team in history to rally from five runs down in the 14th inning or later.
“It was pretty awesome to come back and put up a five-spot on a pretty legit closer,” Mariners shortstop Brendan Ryan said. “And this bullpen, I think that’s why it went as long as it did, as nasty as these two bullpens are.”
But the impotence of both offenses also contributed to the game’s scoreless length in different fashions. The White Sox are simply a brutal offensive club overall and showed it with just three hits and zero walks in eight innings off a dominant Hisashi Iwakuma, then one more single in the ninth facing Yoervis Medina. Iwakuma retired his final 16 batters and didn’t allow a runner past first.
The Mariners, meanwhile, had 14 baserunners in regulation, but once again faltered with runners in scoring position. They went 0 for 11 prior to the big 14th inning after entering the game with a major league worst .221 mark hitting in such spots.
By the ninth, the Mariners had managed a hit in every inning off starter Dylan Axelrod and the plethora of relievers that followed.
But still, they could not deliver the knockout blow.
“It’s tough to lose these games, but there are some positives,” Ryan said. “We just need to probably collectively all get in the cold tub and get after it tomorrow.”
That will be easier said that done with the Mariners left depleted in several key areas.
They told Noesi after the game he’d be headed back to Class AAA, his arm now spent after 69 pitches in three innings as the last man in the bullpen. The team will need to make some type of pitching move by Thursday and will also be sending catcher Kelly Shoppach back behind the plate after he worked all 16 innings of this one.
On the positive side, they should have Michael Morse back in the outfield, which will increase their bench options, something they were extremely limited with as this game wore on. But there’s no denying the hurt of this one: with the Mariners now back to eight games under .500 instead of six and facing a much better New York Yankees opponent the next four days.
“You don’t score any runs for 13 innings and then you score 10 in one inning,” a head-shaking manager Eric Wedge said of both teams. “That’s baseball. So, when you talk about never being able to figure this game out, that’s a great example. We had so many opportunities and we just didn’t execute. But you’ve got to love the fight.”
They’ll need plenty more where that came from in the days ahead.