Rarely has a group been so happy to go to Cleveland.
The Mariners head down to Ohio worked up about Thursday night’s strenuous 3-2 win in New York which led them to taking the series from the first-place Yankees.
Thursday night brought down the most pressure Tom Wilhelmsen — and many Mariners relievers — have seen this season. Brett Gardner was on third base with one out after stealing twice, the Mariners leading 3-2 in the bottom of the ninth. He’s plenty fast to score on any shallow fly ball, especially with Michael Morse and Jason Bay as the corner outfielders.
Wilhelmsen was able to strike out Jayson Nix. Then, he had to deal with Robinson Cano.
“Just go right after him,” Wilhelmsen, still vibrating postgame, said of his approach. “I wanted to throw a couple of changeups, I got one of them in there. After that, just kind of trust what my catcher is putting down.”
Cano bounced a fastball to Brendan Ryan for the final out. Wilhelmsen gave an uncharacteristic fist-pump.
“There’s no way we’re going to lose that game,” Wilhelmsen said. “We just got momentum. I certainly wasn’t going to be the guy to do it. Emotions were high. No matter what side you’re on, that’s a baseball game.”
Hector Noesi made the spot start and was effective. The Mariners used five relievers, each of which was tested at some point, to quell the Yankees. Michael Morse’s 1oth homer, a rifle shot to center, was the difference. Morse is 9-for-15 in his last four games.
All the tension, the stage, and the result led to this from Ryan:
“Every guy’s in it, on the bench, on the field,” Ryan said. “That was playoff stuff right there. That’s as fun as it gets there in the end. I looked at (Dustin) Ack(ley), I was like, ‘This is awesome.’”
To the quick hits:
> Kendrys Morales made an excellent diving stop of a wide throw from Ryan that saved a run in the seventh. Ryan called it the “play of the game.”
“I don’t think I can bear-hug him strong enough,” Ryan said. “It’s hard to get my arms around him … that was one heck of play.”
> Ryan had a solid day at the plate. Two of his outs were near-hits, a sinking liner to right that Ichiro pulled in somehow and a deep shot to right-center that Gardner tracked down. As it was, Ryan picked up two infield hits and drove in a run.
> Even without primary set up man Stephen Pryor, the Mariners were able to win a bullpen-based game. Carter Capps got three of the four lefties he faced out. Lefties were hitting .391 against him coming into the game. He had a big strikeout of Ichiro with a slider with the tying run on second in the eighth.
> Manager Eric Wedge was ejected in the second inning, his first time getting tossed this season. Wedge was arguing multiple things after he jogged on to the field, including what looked like a check-swing from Raul Ibanez that was quickly called strike three and Ichiro’s catch of Ryan’s liner.
“He should have thrown me out,” Wedge said. “I would have thrown myself out if I said that to myself.”
> Wedge also repeatedly talks about the need to win in different ways. Tuesday, they were leaning on Felix Hernandez until he was hurt. Wednesday, the offense blasted away. Thursday, the bullpen, which couldn’t hold Hernandez’s lead earlier in the series, held on.
“It should be a huge lift,” Wedge said. “It’s tough to play here. That was one hell of a series. Getting the lead and holding on to it and you have one of the best hitters in the game making the last out? It doesn’t get any tougher than that. They should derive a great deal of confidence (from this).”