In front of a record-low crowd at Safeco Field, which dwindled as the game progressed, the Seattle Mariners finally sprang to life again to jump up and bite the Toronto Blue Jays. On Monday night, nothing was going the Mariners way: Felix Hernandez was tagged, the offense was sputtering and lady luck just wasn't on Seattle's side. Down 7-1, with the only run coming on a Milton Bradley solo homerun, it looked like the Mariners were dead heading into the eighth inning, and many fans were already comfortably home from the ballpark.
But those three thousand or so fans left at Safeco were rewarded for their persistence as the Mariners began to mount a comeback in the eighth inning, plating five runs to cut the deficit to one. It started with a Michael Saunders single, then a walk by Brendan Ryan and a one-out single by Ichiro to load the bases. All of a sudden, the Mariners were back into it, and the offense had something going.
Octavio Dotel came on in relief with the bases loaded and promptly walked both Luis Rodriguez and Milton Bradley, plating two runs and bringing the tying run up to bat. Marc Rzepczynski relieved Dotel and was just as wild to start, walking Jack Cust to bring in another run. Justin Smoak singled and out of the blue, the Mariners were one run down with one out in the eighth inning. Another pitching change -- Shawn Camp was up next -- turned the Blue Jays' luck around as Camp got Miguel Olivo to ground into a double-play, ending the inning and the threat.
But after a 1-2-3 inning by Josh Lueke, Saunders got the rally started again with a lead-off double, putting the tying run in scoring position for the Mariners. Ryan bunted Saunders over to third, and Seattle was in business as many scrambled to a TV after turning the game off hours before.
The next batter, Adam Kennedy, couldn't quite get the job done, grounding out with the infield in and stranding Saunders at third. Predictably, Ichiro was intentionally walked, putting all the pressure on Rodriguez, who had entered the game earlier for the injured Chone Figgins. Defensive indifference put Ichiro on second, and the Mariners have the winning run just 180 feet away.
Rodriguez battled, fighting tooth-and-nail to stay alive as Camp threw everything but the kitchen sink at him. Pitch after pitch was fouled off, putting fans on the edge of their seats with the game on the line and two outs in the bottom of the ninth. Finally, on the 10th pitch of the at-bat, one pitch after ripping a foul down the right field line, Rodriguez connected, drilling a shot into the gap in left-center to score Saunders and Ichiro.
With seven runs in the final two innings, the Mariners had come all the way back to stun the Blue Jays. The win was the biggest late-game -- after the sixth inning -- deficit the franchise has ever overcome and snapped a seven game losing streak. And what a win it was as a team that's been as frustrating as any sprung to live and gave fans something to cheer about.