After going 550 days without seeing a fan, the Seattle Mariners gave those who stayed late into the night one of the more unlikely comebacks seen on opening day.
Seattle rallied from a five-run deficit to beat the San Francisco Giants 8-7 on Thursday after Jake Fraley walked with the bases loaded in the 10th inning to score Evan White with the winning run.
A wild first night ended with the Mariners mounting a massive comeback, scoring six runs in the eighth to take a 7-6 lead, only to lose it on pinch-hitter Alex Dickerson’s solo homer in the ninth.
According to Sportradar, the Mariners were the 16th team to come back from a five-run deficit on opening day and win since 1906. When the Royals beat Texas earlier in the day, they became the 15th team to do so.
Seattle became the first team since the Montreal Expos in 2002 to come back from a five-run deficit in the eighth inning or later and win on opening day.
“I’m a firm believer that this game is a game of momentum, a game of vibes,” said Mariners center fielder Taylor Trammell, who drew a key nine-pitch walk in the eighth inning. “So the momentum and vibes were in our favor, and I had no doubt that we were going to win this game.”
The Giants’ offense was led by Evan Longoria, Buster Posey, and Austin Slater, but their bullpen struggled all night, culminating with Jose Alvarez’s inability to throw strikes in the 10th. To start the inning, Alvarez walked Trammell and Dylan Moore, loading the bases after White moved to second base.
Alvarez (0-1) couldn’t get close to Fraley, and Seattle celebrated an unlikely win when the reliever’s 3-1 pitch went wide.
Seattle had only five hits but nine walks.
“Not being able to throw strikes will hurt you in the major leagues,” said San Francisco manager Gabe Kapler. “So we have to do a better job, and that was certainly the story of tonight’s baseball game.”
Mitch Haniger made a fantastic sliding catch on Posey’s fly ball down the right-field line to end the inning with Longoria at third base, allowing Anthony Misiewicz (1-0) to escape the 10th inning unscathed.
Haniger played in his first game since June 6, 2019, after missing the rest of that season and all of last year due to injuries.
“He hasn’t played a game like that in a long time, so he’ll probably be sore tomorrow,” said Seattle manager Scott Servais. “But everyone in here is having a great time right now.”
Seattle took a 7-6 lead in the eighth inning against San Francisco’s shaky bullpen. Moore hit a two-run double on Tyler Rogers’ first pitch, and Seattle took the lead on first baseman Brandon Belt’s throwing error, which allowed two runs to score.
The lead was only temporary. Dickerson batted first in the ninth inning, pinch-hitting for Slater, who had homered earlier in the game. Dickerson trailed 0-2, but Seattle closer Rafael Montero left a changeup in the middle of the plate, and Dickerson lined it out to right-center for San Francisco’s fourth solo home run.
Longoria and Posey both homered in the second inning against Seattle starter Marco Gonzales, who set a career high with three home runs allowed.
The late commotion ruined a strong start by San Francisco starter Kevin Gausman. Gausman allowed only one run while pitching into the seventh inning for the second time in his career. He struck out the first 11 batters he faced before Kyle Seager’s two-out double in the fourth. Gausman walked two batters, but the only other hit he gave up was White’s leadoff double in the seventh.
Prior to Thursday, Seattle’s last home game with fans was on September 29, 2019, but 8,174 people attended the opener. The sellout crowd arrived pumped up, but there was little to cheer about from the home team until the huge eighth-inning rally.
“It felt a lot bigger. “You could feel the excitement, the anticipation that people have coming out here,” Gonzales said.
BACK AT THE PARK
The Mariners’ opener was the first professional sporting event in Washington state to allow fans since the Seattle Sounders hosted the Columbus Crew in an MLS match on March 7, 2000. In late winter, a limited number of family and friends were permitted to attend college basketball games in the state.
The entire first-round series against San Francisco has been sold out.
TENTH TIME AROUND
Posey, Belt, and San Francisco shortstop Brandon Crawford all made their 10th career opening-day starts. For Crawford, it was his 10th consecutive start at shortstop to begin the season, while Posey returned after opting out last year.
The 10 opening days starts tied Hall of Fame pitcher Juan Marichal for fifth-most in franchise history.
WHO’S IN LEFT
When Slater trotted out to start in left field for the Giants he continued a strange, ongoing streak for San Francisco. The Giants have used a different starting left fielder for every season opener since Barry Bonds last played for San Francisco in 2007.
Giants: RHP Johnny Cueto (2-3, 5.40 ERA in 2020) begins his sixth season with the Giants. Cueto had a 9.82 ERA in three spring training appearances.
Mariners: LHP Yusei Kikuchi (2-4, 5.17) makes his season debut. Kikuchi appeared in three spring training games and gave up three runs in 8 1/3 innings.