After 550 days without fans in attendance, the Seattle Mariners treated those who stuck around late into the night to one of the more unlikely comebacks seen on opening day.
Jake Fraley walked with the bases loaded in the 10th inning to score Evan White with the winning run, and Seattle rallied from a five-run deficit to beat the San Francisco Giants 8-7 on Thursday.
A wild opening night concluded with a massive comeback by the Mariners, who scored 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 rally from a deficit of five or more runs on opening day and win, dating to 1906. The Royals became the 15th earlier in the day when they came back against Texas.
Seattle was the first team to trail by five-plus runs in the eighth inning or later and win on opening day since the Montreal Expos in 2002.
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“I’m a strong believer in this game is a game of momentum, a game of vibes as well,” said Mariners center fielder Taylor Trammell, who had a key nine-pitch walk as part of Seattle’s big eighth inning. “So the momentum and the vibes were in our favor and there was no doubt in my mind that we were going to win this game.”
Evan Longoria, Buster Posey and Austin Slater also went deep for the Giants, but their bullpen struggled all night, capped by Jose Alvarez’s inability to throw strikes in the 10th. Alvarez walked Trammell and Dylan Moore to begin the inning, loading the bases after White started on second base.
Alvarez (0-1) wasn’t close against Fraley, and Seattle celebrated an unlikely victory when the reliever’s 3-1 pitch was wide.
Seattle had just five hits, but walked nine times.
“Not being able to throw strikes, that’s going to hurt you at the major league level,” San Francisco manager Gabe Kapler said. “So we’ve got to do a better job, and that was definitely the story of tonight’s baseball game.”
Anthony Misiewicz (1-0) escaped the 10th unscathed after Mitch Haniger made a terrific sliding catch on Posey’s fly ball down the right-field line to end the inning with Longoria at third base.
It was Haniger’s 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 quite some time, so he’ll probably be a little sore tomorrow,” Seattle manager Scott Servais said. “But everybody feels really good in here right now.”
Seattle scored six times in the eighth against San Francisco’s shaky bullpen to take a 7-6 lead. Moore had a key two-run double on the first pitch from Tyler Rogers, and Seattle took the lead on first baseman Brandon Belt’s throwing error that allowed two runs to score.
The lead was short-lived. Dickerson led off the ninth pinch-hitting for Slater, who homered earlier in the game. Dickerson fell behind 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 off Seattle starter Marco Gonzales, who tied a career high with three home runs allowed.
The late chaos ruined a terrific outing from San Francisco starter Kevin Gausman. Starting on opening day for the second time in his career, Gausman allowed only one run while pitching into the seventh. He retired the first 11 batters before Kyle Seager’s two-out double in the fourth. Gausman issued a pair of walks, but the only other hit allowed was White’s leadoff double in the seventh.
Seattle’s last home game with fans prior to Thursday was Sept. 29, 2019, but 8,174 showed up for the opener. The sellout crowd arrived with energy and excitement there proved to be little to cheer from the home side until the huge eighth-inning rally.
“It felt like a lot more. You could feel the intensity, you could feel the anticipation that people have getting out here,” Gonzales said.
BACK AT THE PARK
The Mariners’ opener was the first professional sporting event in Washington state to allow fans since March 7, 2000, when the Seattle Sounders hosted the Columbus Crew in an MLS match. A small number of family and friends had been allowed to attend college basketball games in the state in late winter.
Seattle has sold out the entire opening series against San Francisco.
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 day 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.