SEATTLE —Leonys Martin came full circle Tuesday in Oakland. And not just in his game-winning trip around the bases, but let’s start there since it occurred with two outs in the 10th inning of a tie game with nobody on base.
Martin said he just wanted to put a good swing on the ball. The result was a 383-foot homer to right field that lifted the Mariners to a remarkable 7-6 victory over the Athletics at the Oakland Coliseum.
“It was a pretty good swing,” Martin admitted.
This was a pretty good victory. The Mariners trailed 3-0 after Ariel Miranda gave up a homer in the first inning to Khris Davis. Oakland built its lead to 5-1 and 6-2 before the Mariners began their comeback.
Two runs in the sixth inning. One run each in the seventh and eighth. They left the bases loaded in the ninth inning before Martin provided the game-winner on a 2-1 pitch from Josh Smith, the eighth pitcher used by the Athletics.
Edwin Diaz closed out the victory by escaping from a two-on, one-out jam later in the 10th inning for his 24th save overall, and his MLB-leading 11th since the All-Star break.
“Eddie bent a little bit, but he didn’t break,” manager Scott Servais said. “A little too many off-speed pitches that inning. When he got back to throwing the fastball, that’s what he does, and he got the results we were looking for.”
The victory boosted the Mariners to 58-56 and pulled them into a tie with Kansas City (57-55) and Tampa Bay (58-56) atop the race for the American League’s final wild-card berth.
“It’s not all about my homer,” Martin said. “That’s a great team win. A great comeback. We never gave up. Everybody was fighting every single at-bat. That’s a great win, and we’ve got to keep doing that until the end.”
That Martin was part of it — let alone a big part of it — is notable.
Tuesday marked the Mariners’ first game in the East Bay since April 23, a day that began with Martin being designated for assignment while mired in a 5-for-54 slump.
When Martin went unclaimed on waivers, he faced a choice: accept an outright assignment to the minors or quit. He nearly quit before choosing to report to Triple-A Tacoma, where he batted .312 with 40 extra-base hits in 84 games.
An injury to Mitch Haniger provided Martin with another big-league chance on July 30, and he is 10-for-33 in nine games since his return.
“I couldn’t be any happier for Leonys Martin,” Servais said. “He busted his butt down there the whole time in Triple-A. He’s helped us out a ton since he’s been back.”
The key play in the comeback was Ben Gamel scoring the tying run from third base in the eighth inning on Danny Valencia’s short one-out fly ball to center field.
Gamel began the inning by reaching second base on a throwing error by third baseman Matt Chapman. (That was one of three Oakland errors, and each one led to a run.)
After Gamel moved to third on Jarrod Dyson’s grounder to second, Valencia sent a floater to Rajai Davis in center. Gamel gambled, charged home and slid around the tag by Dustin Garneau.
Another plus: Gamel went 2-for-5 after going 1-for-23 over his previous six games.