Wild finish ends Mariners' eight-game winning streak
Paul Konerko's single with one out in the bottom of the ninth gave the Chicago White Sox a dramatic 9-8 victory over the Seattle Mariners on Friday night.
Special to the Seattle Times
Seattle @ Chicago
White Sox, 4:10 p.m., ROOT
CHICAGO — For the first eight innings of Friday night's game, the Mariners appeared to have been brought back down to earth.
The revitalized team that came into the contest riding an eight-game winning streak trailed by five runs and looked down for the count.
But then they turned on a switch and poured across six runs to take the lead, hoping to win a ninth straight game for the first time since 2003.
The White Sox had the last say, though, scoring twice in their half of the ninth to come away with a wild 9-8 victory before 25,058 fans at U.S. Cellular Field.
Although the Mariners lost in heartbreaking fashion when right fielder Eric Thames dropped a catch in the ninth inning after a collision with center fielder Michael Saunders, the sentiment in the locker room afterward was they are a club that fights to the finish.
"The first thing I realized when I got here was that this team grinds it out and we compete, especially late innings on, " Thames said.
If Thames had held onto the ball hit deep to the wall by Paul Konerko, it would have been the second out in a tie game.
"It was tough because it was so loud, so communication was kind of tough," Thames said. "I caught it and my elbow hit him (Saunders) and it was a pretty bad collision.
"I'm on the ground and feel the ball shoot out and go all the way to center field and can't do anything. That was rough because we put up six runs in the ninth inning. It's rough, but that's the game."
Dewayne Wise scored the game-winning run as Thames and Saunders, a little shaken up, got up off the warning track.
The Mariners didn't waste any time getting on the board in the top of the first inning. Dustin Ackley drove a shot deep off the wall in right-center field for a double. Then Saunders, also swinging on the first pitch, singled Ackley home with a hit to left.
After Adam Dunn tied it for the White Sox in the bottom of the first with a home run, Trayvon Robinson put the Mariners back on top with his first round-tripper of the season, a 405-foot blast to straightaway center.
But this was not the night for Mariners starter Jason Vargas, who entered 6-1 with a 1.95 earned-run average in his past 10 starts. He allowed seven hits, including three home runs, and six runs in four innings. It was the left-hander's worst outing since June 20 at Arizona, a 14-10 loss in which he gave up nine hits.
"He just didn't have it today," Mariners manager Eric Wedge said.
Vargas gave up two homers to Dunn, who leads the major leagues with 38. Alexei Ramirez added a two-run homer in the fourth for a 6-2 Chicago lead.
"They just didn't miss a mistake," Vargas said.
The Mariners climbed back in the ninth. Up until then, they hadn't scored since the second inning. White Sox starter Jake Peavy shut them down for the next five innings, and allowed two runs on seven hits in seven innings.
Jesus Montero led off the ninth with a solo home run.
"It means a lot to us because it means we can do it, we're fighting every day," Montero said. "We're in it together."
Ackley had a two-run single to right to drive in Justin Smoak and Robinson to cut the deficit to 7-5. It was 7-6 when John Jaso, with two outs and two strikes on him, singled to right to bring in Ackley, and Saunders scored the go-ahead run on Alex Rios' throwing error, giving the Mariners an 8-7 lead.
"After we took the lead it was like, where did that come from?" Jaso said. "When it was 6-2 it was almost like give up point, but just staying in and not giving up, it was so cool to come back."
And the Mariners are still brimming with confidence because of it.