BY Art Thiel 07:50PM 07/26/2015

Thiel: Gutierrez, triple play give Mariners a series

Beset by physical problems over the past two-plus seasons, Franklin Gutierrez delivered a walk-off home run Sunday that provided joy in an otherwise bleak season.

The party was on at home plate after Franklin Gutierrez hit the game-winning homer Sunday, although the standard pounding was s little light. / Art Thiel, Sportspress Northwest

We pause in a dour, disquieting Mariners season to celebrate something splendid — Franklin Gutierrez, baseball hero.

His 10th-inning, walk-off homer against Toronto Sunday produced what amounts to, in a 46-53 season, a big win (box score), as well as a 2-1 series victory. The high-leverage drama also provided a crisp slap upside the heads of Blue Jays fans who came down from Baja America to outnumber the United Staters in a crowd of 35,519 at Safeco Field.

Not only that, the homer followed a pinch-hit grand slam Tuesday by Gutierrez that rescued an 11-9 triumph in Detroit.

These gratifications climaxed a professional comeback by Gutierrez that produces a little moisture in the corners of the eyes of his teammates, whose same eyes in spring training presumed they were seeing a specter when he hobbled in after two years in baseball purgatory.

Cue up, “Ghost Riders in the Sky.”

The forces that brought back Gutierrez from career death are so little understood that when he crossed the plate into a giddy crowd of celebrants, an alert was shouted:

“Somebody was saying, ‘Don’t hurt him! Don’t hurt him!’” said Gutierrez, whose grin over the humor at his expense symbolized something as rewarding as the homer — he was a normal guy again. Gone were his days as an object of pity, back is his role as major league contributor.

“I think he’s everybody’s favorite player in the clubhouse,” said Brad Miller, who is just old enough to remember when Gutierrez, 32, was briefly among the best centerfielders in the game, before a series of injuries, ailments and accidents rendered his career virtually inert. “He’s so under control, so strong — the ultimate professional. Pretty sweet.”

Since his call-up from a successful half-season in Tacoma, he’s 12 for 45 (.267), with three homers and two doubles and has played a respectable left field despite a loss of speed.

But no one is suggesting he is a full-timer yet. The Mariners’ plan is to platoon and pinch-hit him because they think his body is not ready for the rigors of every-day work. It is, however, tempting.

“He’s been plying extremely well — it’s kinda hard keeping him out of the lineup,” said manager Lloyd McClendon. “It’s been a tough road. The biggest challenge for us is to manage his playing time.”

But any playing time at all exceeded what Gutierrez imagined for himself in February.

“When I came to spring training I wasn’t expecting anything,” he said. “I wasn’t sure at all. I just wanted to know if I was able to play again. I knew I was feeling better and better.

“And here we are again, doing the job.”

Heartwarming as is Gutierrez’s saga, he would not have had the stage had not starter Taijuan Walker recovered from a three-run second inning to get through six innings, helping a bullpen McClendon termed pre-game “a mess.”

Nor would things have worked out had not the Mariners pulled off in the fourth inning a triple play of a kind not seen in the majors since 1955. The Blue Jays had Kevin Pillar on first and Ezequiel Carrera on third with no outs when the bewilderment began.

Walker induced Ryan Goins into grounding to first right at Trumbo, who stepped on the bag for the first out, then fired to Miller covering second to get Pillar. Carrera was trying to sneak away from third, but Miller saw that and ran slowly and directly at him, skipping the chance to tag Pillar and creating a rundown.

Carrera broke for the plate, but Zunino took Miller’s throw and chased Carrera back to third, where Carrera found Pillar, who had kept running. By rule, the base belonged to Carrera, meaning Pillar was out. Zunino tagged both runners, then in the confusion, Carrera came off the bag awkwardly and fell, Zunino applying the tag. Out No. 3.

The slow-developing awkwardness was so unusual that Miller admitted he hadn’t realized it was a triple play — 11th in club history — until he checked a text message in the clubhouse after the game.

As for McClendon, “I thought it was great. Right on for me. I followed the ball pretty good.”

The other remarkable aspect of the game was a 3-for-4 day for C Mike Zunino, who would have gone 4-for-4 with a homer if not for a leaping, over-the-wall catch in left by Carrera in the sixth inning. Zunino is on a six-game hitting streak in which he is 9 for 20.

It’s unlikely that cynically hard-core Mariners fans are going to change minds about the fate of this season. But for a day, the feeling could not have been much better.


The win was the Mariners’ first in the rubber match of a series in eight tries dating to April 19  . . . Toronto’s ace starter Mark Buerhle saw his club-record streak snapped of nine consecutive starts allowing two earned runs or less with 6+ . . . The Mariners had five hits in the third inning, tying a single-inning high this season for the fifth time . . . According to the SABR Triple Play database of more than 700 triple plays, Sunday’s was the first featuring a 3-6-2-2 since Aug. 3, 1955 (Baltimore vs. Kansas City). It was the third triple play in MLB this season.



  • Sam Base

    I almost gave up on this game after the Blue Jays got up 3-0, but I’m glad I didn’t. You just never know when baseball is going to greatly reward you for your attention. And it certainly did today. Just seeing Zunino go 3-4 (and by all rights 4-4) would have been enough by itself, but also a triple play that looked like something out of the 3 Stooges, and then to top it off Guti goes deep in the 10th and swings around the bases like Frank Sinatra in Vegas. Easily one of the most entertaining games of the year. Too bad we don’t have a season to go with it. Maybe next year, as the saying goes.

    • Kevin Lynch

      If they have the personnel next year they’ll likely have an exciting season to go with it. They have to find players who can hit the first half of the season. They assumed the ‘Big Three’ starters would be a big boost. Instead, they delivered little. They gambled that Lomo and Ackley would hit .260 and Zunino .230. They assumed over-reliance on the bullpen wouldn’t be a problem since they got away with it the year before.

      And they assumed small ball skills like bunting and smart base running were not prerequisites for the playoffs. Then they made the big mistake thinking that everything that got them to 87 wins last year would be back in play this year. But we went through this with the Wakematsu winning season. Sometimes players overachieve. Baseball runs in cycles. So do the players. Some up, some down. Too many assumptions. Half the team had baseball card stats that didn’t look that good in March. I don’t think Cano hitting .300 fixes this season. Maybe .300 with 30 homers would help but there’s no ‘short porch’ in right like there was in New York.

      • art thiel

        The bullpen was unlikely to repeat the same level of success — they traded Maurer and Capps — but the degree of falloff has been brutal.

    • art thiel

      It was a wnderful game from a Seattle standpoint. After the dreariness, they were due. And hey, it even rained, and it was a good thing.

  • Effzee

    Oh, what fun it can be to rely upon magic for success!

    • art thiel

      Hogwarts West.

  • coug73

    Mr. Thiel, thanks for including the box score for the game in your article. Johnny Cash singing Ghost Riders was a nice touch. Go M’s, win the next 3 games. 3 in a row!

    • art thiel

      Glad you noticed. Coug73.

  • Its onlySports(DavidWakefield)

    A fun game but unless they have some 95 magic in them its going to continue to be a long season.

  • notaboomer

    6.5 games out gives hope. 6 teams between Ms and twins does not.

  • Rj Smith

    Refuse to lose! Refuse to lose!

    • art thiel

      Catchy. Where’d you get it?

      • Rj Smith

        1995 which this obviously will not be a repeat of……

  • notaboomer

    i bet the mariners could get more fans at safeco field than their opponent if they gave out free beer to washington residents.

    • art thiel

      Well, they are up 6.000 a game from a year ago, so high beer prices are not a hindrance.

      • notaboomer

        hindrance to getting mariners fans in the seats to outnumber fans of the bad guys apparently.

        • art thiel

          High beer prices never stop Canadians. Or Americans.

      • Trygvesture

        (eyes shifting around for the spam queen who replies to posters and ends up in our inboxes with ill managed Discus notifications via ill managed WordPress…)
        yes, Art, might not be a beer price effect, or, we might look at confounding factors– have you done the climate change correlation? It didn’t rain for about 8 weeks when it usually rains every day! Wasn’t cold and damp! Makes spring and summer evening baseball in Seattle damn attractive to ticket buyers– even with this JackZ Train wreck of an unbalanced conglomerate of old-school, old-bat individual-stats that bear no correlation to this park, these superstars, these draft picks, these pitchers, this era, apt team composition or anything else but JackZ befuddled thinking well rooted in the days of the Bash Bros.
        He and Lincoln must just sit there, one on the dias, the other at his feet, and stare blankly, gazing into space, confused and bewildered as to why their slogan, “This time for sure!” ( as Devon Gruver used to say when teaching water skiing) just flops like a dying fish on the dock. They just can’t run the Baseball management bases anything but clockwise.

  • notaboomer

    road to the playoffs: iwakuma & rodney for 6 sheep and a divining rod.

    • Kevin Lynch

      You forgot about the magic beans! As the story goes, Jack does not surrender the cow unless he gets the magic beans. It’s the only way to get the goose that lays the golden eggs. And frankly, that’s about the only thing that will help them at this point.

  • notaboomer

    mariners 1 game from playoffs last season, seahawks 1 play from sb championship last season, and sonics 1 city council vote from returning to town. ouch. well there’s always hope (solo).

    • Effzee

      Yeah, but she’s probably drunk and screaming at Jerramy Stevens. ;-p

    • art thiel

      I missed the one vote on returning the Sonics. What happened? MOU is still in place.

      • notaboomer

        i misspoke. it was the wisconsin state senate that voted to fund the bucks arena. apparently the state house and then the milwaukee common council would also have to approve.

        • art thiel

          I believe the Senate vote was crucial, the others fairly certain. Even if there was trouble, I don’t the the NBA was ever serious about relocating the Bucks. They don’t want another public pounding.