Smoak singles in winning run, M's beat Giants 2-1
Posted on June 17, 2012 at 3:43 PM
Updated Sunday, Jun 17 at 5:27 PM
SEATTLE -- Justin Smoak veered onto the outfield grass after touching second, and began to sprint.
A mob of teammates were after him, with a distinct speed advantage over the lumbering Smoak.
"Think it's the fastest I've ran all year," Smoak said.
Smoak was on the move to avoid a celebratory pummeling after his one-out single in the bottom of the ninth scored pinch-runner Munenori Kawasaki from second, when the throw home hit Kawasaki in the back, giving the Mariners a 2-1 win over the San Francisco Giants on Sunday in front of 40,603, the second-largest crowd of the season.
Mariners closer Tom Wilhelmsen took over in the ninth and found trouble before Smoak's hit.
Wilhelmsen walked Pablo Sandoval on four pitches to load the bases with one out, bringing the National League's leading hitter coming into Sunday, Melky Cabrera, to the plate. Wilhelmsen struck him out on three pitches after a four-pitch walk to the previous batter.
Wilhelmsen's explanation for his success against Cabrera was succinct.
"He missed them," Wilhelmsen said.
Wilhelmsen (3-1) then got pinch-hitter Nate Schierholtz to ground out to second to end his most pressure-filled outing since recording his first career save June 5.
"Holy cow," Wilhelmsen said. "Got pretty intense there for a little but, huh?"
That allowed the opportunity for Smoak. San Francisco reliever Sergio Romo (2-1) gave up back-to-back singles to Kyle Seager and Jesus Montero to open the ninth before being replaced by Javier Lopez. After pinch-hitter Michael Saunders failed to bunt the runners over, Smoak lined the game-winning single to left.
A tense ninth inning finally settled what starters Madison Bumgarner and Felix Hernandez could not. Each were dominant.
Bumgarner allowed just three hits in his eight innings. He struck out four and walked one, retiring 18 consecutive batters at one point.
Hernandez threw seven innings, allowed one run, struck out seven and walked one. He had been struggling. He tinkered with his mound stance during his bullpen work earlier in the week, trying to find a remedy for his recent woes. Hernandez's ERA was 6.36 over his previous six starts, during which he was 1-4.
Sunday started with a surprise for him. His wife, Sandra, ordered a banner to be flown behind a plane around the park that read, "King 34 you are the best dad ever. We (love) you."
It took three teammates to break his routine and convince Hernandez to step out to the dugout early, so he could see the surprise.
"I almost cried," Hernandez said. "I was not going to cry because those guys are here. They're going to talk bad about me. Don't do it. Don't do it. Be tough. That was really amazing."
Yet, a bumpy first ensued. Hernandez escaped the first allowing just one run, despite three hits and a walk. Sandoval, Cabrera and Angel Pagan singled. Pagan's hit landed just on the outfield grass to score Sandoval.
Hector Sanchez flew out to center with the bases loaded to end the inning on Hernandez's 30th pitch.
He and Bumgarner cruised to the late innings before finally being challenged.
Brandon Crawford led off the seventh with the first hit against Hernandez since the third inning. He was thrown out when Emmanuel Burriss' bunt was scooped up and thrown to second by catcher Miguel Olivo. Hernandez dove to his stomach to avoid Olivo's throw and Olivo ended up on the ground a couple feet away from him after tumbling on the follow through.
Hernandez struck out Sandoval with his 113th pitch to end the threat.
Bumgarner walked Dustin Ackley with one out in the eighth to end a streak of 18 consecutive retired. Brendan Ryan followed with a single before Bumgarner navigated out of trouble by getting a groundout from Ichiro Suzuki and striking out Franklin Gutierrez.
With two on and two out in the eighth, Smoak dove to his right at first to smother a crisp grounder from Sanchez. Smoak flipped to Brandon League to keep the game tied.
"Timely hits, that's what wins games for your and we were missing that today," San Francisco manager Bruce Bochy said.
San Francisco had not lost a road series since dropping two of three games to the Dodgers May 7-9. But, leaves Safeco Field with two consecutive losses, which also has rejuvenated the Mariners who snapped a six-game losing streak Saturday.
Notes: Bochy said struggling starter Tim Lincecum will make his next start and insists the two-time Cy Young Award winner is close to regaining his form. . Mariners manager Eric Wedge is keeping Wilhelmsen as his closer. Wedge had said he hoped to move League back into the role, but Wilhelmsen's success is forcing the manager to keep Wilhelmsen there.