Mitch Haniger refused to let the Seattle Mariners unlikely run at postseason contention end with thud.
In doing so, he ensured the Mariners will be playing meaningful baseball on the final day of the regular season.
“The ‘Haniger Game,’ I think is what we can call this one,” Seattle manager Scott Servais said.
Haniger drove in five runs and his two-out, two-run single in the eighth inning gave Seattle the lead as the Mariners took their playoff hopes to the final day with a 6-4 win over the Los Angeles Angels on Saturday night.
With Seattle’s season on the line, Haniger had an RBI single in the third inning, clubbed his 39th homer in the fifth and came through with the bases loaded in the eighth after Seattle blew a 3-1 lead.
“Putting the team up by two there was was fun. It was good,” Haniger said. “Trying to win every single game, win every single pitch. Every pitch is so meaningful, so every run that we can bring across the plate is huge, especially in these last couple games, this last series with so much on the line. That was a good feeling.”
Seattle won’t be able to claim one of two AL wild-card spots on the final day of the regular season, but it made game No. 162 matter, which hasn’t been said often during Seattle’s 20-year postseason drought.
The Mariners and Toronto enter the final day tied at 90-71, both trailing Boston and the New York Yankees by one game for the two wild cards. Seattle could find itself in one of several Monday tiebreaker scenarios if it beats the Angels on Sunday and either Boston or New York loses.
It’s the first 90-win season for the Mariners since 2003.
“You always want to play for something bigger than yourself,” Seattle’s Kyle Seager said. “You always want to be a part of something bigger than just your own personal agenda, or goals, or stats or anything like that. You want to play for something bigger and we get the opportunity to tomorrow.”
Seattle almost didn’t get to the last day.
Steve Cishek (0-2) couldn’t find the plate in the eighth. The right-hander hit Jarred Kelenic and walked Jake Bauers to open the inning. Jake Fraley’s sacrifice bunt advanced the runners, and J.P. Crawford was intentionally walked.
Kelenic was forced out at home on Ty France’s chopper to third, but Haniger delivered with a line drive to left on a 3-2 pitch, scoring Bauers and Crawford. The normally even-keeled Haniger pumped his arms as he rounded first base, and the more than 44,000 in attendance had T-Mobile Park shaking.
Seager dropped a single into center field to score France and give Seattle some cushion.
“Nobody feels worse than (Cishek),” Angels manager Joe Maddon said. “He’s an iron man. He’s steady as can be and he’s been pitching actually really well.”
Drew Steckenrider pitched the ninth for his 14th save.
Jared Walsh hit a three-run homer in the eighth inning off reliever Paul Sewald to give the Angels a 4-3 lead. Sewald (10-3) had been brilliant all season for Seattle but opened the inning by walking Brandon Marsh and Shohei Ohtani on 3-2 pitches.
After a strikeout, Sewald left his first-pitch fastball in the middle of the plate and Walsh deposited it to deep right-center field for his 28th homer and silenced the crowd. It was the 10th homer allowed this season by Sewald.
“When you think about how this season started, to be playing Game 162 and have on the line what is on the line says a lot about the steps we’ve taken forward as a team,” Servais said.
Seattle starter Chris Flexen was solid into the sixth inning before the Mariners standout bullpen took over. Flexen allowed one run and six hits and pitched his way out of jams in the second and fifth innings to leave runners stranded at third.
Jhonathan Diaz couldn’t get through the fifth inning for the Angels. He allowed six hits and three runs making the first road start of his career.
Seattle scrambled to add an arm to its bullpen before the game, reinstating Andrés Muñoz from the 60-day injured list and placing RHP Joe Smith on the injured list. Muñoz has not pitched in the majors since September 2019 before undergoing Tommy John surgery. He had been pitching in the minors for Triple-A Tacoma.
Smith was not given an injury designation.
Seattle also recalled IF/OF Donovan Walton on Saturday to have additional flexibility on the bench. RHP Wyatt Mills was optioned to Tacoma.
Angels: LHP Reid Detmers (1-3, 7.11) makes his first start since Aug. 21. Detmers spent a month on the injured list.
Mariners: LHP Tyler Anderson (7-10, 4.41) makes his third start in eight days. Anderson pitched on short rest on Tuesday night against Oakland after getting roughed up last weekend by the Angels where he allowed nine runs in two innings.