The Mariners’ Five Greatest Games
October 2, 1995: On the Map
With a late-season surge that rivaled some of the greatest in baseball history, the Mariners came from three games below .500 and a 13-game deficit in early August to secure a tie for the AL West with the California Angels—leading to a one-game playoff to determine the outright divisional champion.
Mariners fever was already in full bloom among the fans with near-capacity crowds—a rare sight in Seattle—filling up the Kingdome over the season’s last few weeks, even just after an election in which local voters had said no to a new ballpark for the team. On the field, the pitching matchup was dripping with irony: Seattle ace Randy Johnson took the hill against the Angels’ Mark Langston, who six years earlier was traded by the Mariners to Montreal for the Big Unit. Then, Langston was considered the better pitcher. Now, the opposite was about to be confirmed.
Johnson retired the first 17 batters he faced—ten of them by strikeout. The Mariners, meanwhile, chipped away at Langston, frequently reaching every base but home—until the fifth, when they finally broke through on a single from Vince Coleman, enjoying a brief stop in Seattle after a midseason trade from Kansas City. Two innings later, the Mariners broke the wall down on Langston and the Angels when, with the bases loaded and two outs, Luis Sojo punched one down the right-field line that cleared the bases—and scored himself on the play when Langston’s relay to home went wild. Seattle added to the Angels’ misery in the eighth when the first five Mariners batters reached; four of them scored to turn the game into a 9-0 rout. Johnson lost the shutout when Tony Phillips homered to lead off the Angel ninth, but he went the distance (throwing 150 pitches) and helped clinch the Mariners’ first postseason appearance after 18 years spent largely in futility.
The 9-1 win also had long-term ramifications; in the weeks to follow, the Washington State Legislature—struck with a major case of Mariners Fever—controversially overrode the failed ballpark measure and gave the go-ahead for the facility, Safeco Field, to be built.
October 8, 1995: The Double
It was hard to imagine the euphoria of the Mariners’ division-winning victory over the Angels being topped, but just six days later, it would. The ALDS brought a resurgent New York Yankee team making its first playoff appearance in 14 years, and after losing the first two games of the series, the Mariners came storming back to force the decisive Game Five at the Kingdome.
The Mariners held an early 1-0 advantage off Yankee starter David Cone after three innings, but New York came bouncing back—first with a two-run shot by Paul O’Neill in the fourth, and two innings later when veteran Don Mattingly, in what would be his last game, doubled in two more to make it a 4-2 Yankee lead. The score held into the bottom of the eighth, when the Mariners’ bats re-awoke. With one out, Ken Griffey Jr.’s fifth homer of the series closed the gap to one; after a second out, the M’s loaded the bases on a single and two walks. Doug Strange, owner of a career .236 average, was called on to pinch-hit while the Yankees stuck with Cone even as budding reliever Mariano Rivera warmed up; Strange worked the count full and then took a breaking ball that was nowhere near the strike zone, forcing the tying run home.
In the ninth, Randy Johnson—two days after throwing seven innings, six days after the exhaustive complete-game win over the Angels—was asked to perform relief for the Mariners. He would throw the next three innings as the game worked into overtime, striking out six but also allowing the go-ahead run in the 11th, putting the Mariners’ backs against the wall one more time. As usual for this season, they met the challenge. Joey Cora bunted his way to lead off the inning against Jack McDowell (also doing rare relief duty); Griffey singled to center, sending Cora to third; and then Edgar Martinez, having a whale of a series, lined a double off the right-field wall, as Griffey sprinted around the bases and scored ahead of the throw to end the game and series with a thrilling 6-5 win, as 57,000 Seattle fans nearly blew the lid off the Kingdome in celebration.
October 6, 2001: Yankee Property No More
In a one-of-a-kind year sparked by a spectacular, out-of-nowhere debut for Ichiro Suzuki, belated breakout efforts for pitcher Jamie Moyer and infielder Bret Boone, and overachieving contributions from just about everybody else on the roster, the Mariners went into their final series of the regular season in search of eliminating the Yankees’ all-time American League mark of 114 wins. Before yet another sellout crowd—the 57th of the year at Safeco Field—against divisional rival Texas, they did it; John Olerud homered in the second, Boone added another an inning later and Moyer, at age 38, became the oldest first-time 20-game winner by tossing seven strong innings as the Mariners coasted, 6-2. Sweetening the afternoon further for Seattle fans was a 0-for-4 by former Mariner Alex Rodriguez, the $252 million Texas slugger who bolted from Seattle the year before and for whom was booed at every chance through the year at Safeco Field.
Later in the weekend, Seattle had a shot at breaking the all-time major league mark for victories, tying—but not besting—the 116 wins posted by the 1906 Chicago Cubs. Putting the year in impressive perspective, the Oakland A’s finished the 2001 season with the majors’ second-best record at 102-60—yet still finished a full 14 games behind Seattle in the AL West. And as for the Yankees, for whom many members of the 114-48 team from 1998 were still on the roster? They got even by eliminating the Mariners in the ALCS, placing a disappointing finish on an otherwise magical year for Seattle baseball.
September 14, 1990: Like Father, Like Son
Late in his second season as a Mariner, Ken Griffey Jr. was reunited with his father Ken Sr. after the latter was released by Cincinnati at the end of August. Senior would miss out on winning his third world championship as a Red, but in exchange he participated in a major league first that certainly warmed his heart for the rest of his life.
Against the Angels at Anaheim, Senior batted second and came to the plate after Harold Reynolds led off the game with a walk; he smacked his third homer as a Mariner, clearing the bases for the next man in the order: Junior. Certainly not to be outdone—as he rarely ever was during his career—Junior next sent one over the fence himself against Angel starter Kirk McCaskill—and by doing so, established history by becoming part of the first father-and-son duo to hit back-to-back homers in the same game for the same team.
Junior would go hitless for the rest of the night while Senior added another hit, a run-scoring single in the seventh that tied the game at 5-5. Seattle lost the game a half-inning later when Dave Winfield hit a two-run shot for California; Senior became the final out when he popped out to shortstop in the ninth. But the reunion between father and son, which would last through 1991, proved to be a wonderful experience for both players—especially for Senior, who finished his five-week shift with the Mariners by hitting .377 in 21 games.
October 1, 2004: Bypassing Sisler
In an era where fans stood and anxiously awaited history-making home runs, it was unusual for a sellout Safeco Field crowd rising to its feet in anticipation of a simple single to break another prestigious, long-held mark. Ichiro Suzuki was ready to reward them.
Over his first four years, the Japanese-born Suzuki was a marvel, aggressively punching out single after single with quiet dedication. In 2004, he was a having a year that would top his first three—including his MVP-winning rookie year of 2001. Suzuki entered the Mariners’ third-to-last game of the season one hit behind the all-time season record of 257 hits, held for 84 years by Hall of Famer George Sisler—many of whose relatives, including his 81-year-old daughter, were in attendance.
Wasting little time against the opposing Rangers, Suzuki hit a high hopper over third baseman Hank Blalock in the first inning to tie Sisler—and break a secondary mark of sorts by collecting the most hits (919) of any player in a four-year span. Leading off again in the third, Suzuki knocked a routine grounder that found a hole up the middle and into center field, breaking Sisler’s mark. The game was stopped as Mariners teammates mugged Suzuki at first, before walking over and bowing to Sisler’s relatives. Suzuki later scored—his 100th run of the season—and helped ignite a six-run rally that proved essential in Seattle’s 8-3 win over Texas. On the night, Suzuki would collect three hits in total and reflect afterward on the evening by telling reporters through an interpreter, “I think that’s the most emotional I’ve ever gotten in my life.” He finished the season two days later with 262 to go with a career-best .372 batting average.
Seattle Mariners Team History: Year-by year records, statistics and an oral history of the Mariners, decade by decade.
The Mariners' Five Greatest Hitters: A list of the five greatest hitters based on their productivity and efficiency.
The Mariners' Five Greatest Pitchers: A list of the five greatest pitchers based on their productivity and efficiency.
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