The Mariners continued to redefine their young lineup with late clutch hitting and four home runs in a wild 10-8, 12-inning win over the White Sox Saturday afternoon, snapping Chicago’s nine-game winning streak while improving to 4-20 against the White Sox over the past three seasons.
With the wind blowing out all day, Ichiro blasted a pair of solo home runs, Michael Saunders collected four more hits and Justin Smoak continued to look like University of South Carolina’s all-time home run leader in a game that saw six lead changes and four ties.
But like a handful of victories this year, it once again came down to late-game heroics from 12backup catcher John Jaso.
Tied at eight in the twelfth, Jaso followed a Jesus Montero double with a line shot into the gap to score a pinch-running Munenori Kawasaki. Chone Figgins, inserted into the game late as Mike Carp’s defensive replacement, slapped a fastball into left field to give Seattle a 10-8 advantage.
Jaso said coming through again in the late stages of a game happened thanks to his familiarity with Chicago reliever Addison Reed.
Keeping his approach as simple as possible didn’t hurt either.
“I faced him yesterday so I kind of got a little bit of a good look at him,” Jaso said. ”I kind of knew what he was going to come at me with- just tried to get a base hit and that was it.”
It appeared the Mariners squandered a chance to win entering the eighth inning. Trailing 7-5 and a combined 0-7 with runners in scoring position, Eric Wedge’s club rallied.
Jaso began with a leadoff walk. After Carp went down swinging, Saunders picked up his third hit with a single into right field. Brendan Ryan doubled to knot the game at seven. The Mariners shortstop, whose misplay of a Gordon Beckham ground ball in the seventh gave Chicago a two-run advantage, then broke for third with Ichiro up.
A.J. Pierzynski’s throw scooted under the legs of third baseman Orlando Hudson, allowing Ryan to score and the Mariners to take an 8-7 lead.
Reliever Stephen Pryor looked poised to pick up a win in his major league debut in the eighth, retiring the first two hitters after he struck out Paul Konerko on a fastball that flirted with triple digits to end the seventh.
But with two outs in the eighth, the young righthander hung a 2-2 slider to Dayan Viciedo. The left fielder responded by smashing his 12th home run of the year to tie the game again as the White Sox matched the Mariners with four home runs.
Count Wedge among those ecstatic about his young team’s recent progress.
“They played so hard today,” Wedge said. ”It was a back-and-forth game. They were very consistent with their approach and their thought process… can’t say enough about how these guys played today.”
Leadoff hitter Ichiro set the tone for Seattle early, blasting the third Gavin Floyd offering he saw into the bullpen to give the Mariners a lead. Smoak led off the second with a solo shot of his own to give the Mariners a 2-0 advantage.
After Pierzynski responded with a two-run blast in the bottom of the frame, Ichiro struck again, flashing his long reported batting practice power by lining another fastball into the right field seats.
According to Elias Sports Bureau, the trio of bombs from Smoak and Ichiro marked the first time in Mariners history the team hit lead-off home runs in the game’s first three innings.
On an afternoon where Hector Noesi went 4.1 innings and surrendered six runs, the bullpen played a pivotal role in securing a win. Hisashi Iwakuma picked up his second save by working the 12th inning and Tom Wilhelmsen picked up the win by striking out four in three innings of work.
“Wilhelmsen (had) just a warrior effort out there,” Wedge said. ”All those guys in the bullpen really needed to step up and help us.”