The sound made Chris Snelling cringe. He didn't see the baseball meet Vladimir Guerrero's bat or the line drive scream back up the middle and collide just behind Rafael Soriano's right ear. He just heard it — thwack — and thought three words to himself.
"Oh, my God."
Soriano fell to the ground. Safeco Field fell absolutely silent.
"That's the scariest thing in sports," Mariners closer J.J. Putz said.
And on this Tuesday night, when the Mariners beat the Los Angeles Angels, 6-4, in front of 29,059 for their sixth straight win, no one disagreed.
The Mariners didn't even talk about the game afterward. Nor did they care what happened, save for one disastrous at-bat in the eighth inning.
All words and thoughts and prayers were strictly with Soriano, the Mariners reliever last seen leaving Safeco Field on a motorized cart while fans cheered and teammates stared somewhere far off into space.
Tonight: L.A. Angels at M's, 7:05 p.m., FSN/KOMO (1000 AM)
Starting pitchers: M's Jake Woods (4-1, 3.59) vs. John Lackey (10-9, 3.60)
Initial reports were positive. As teammates surrounded Soriano next to the mound on the empty field in a ballpark long gone silent, his arms and legs moved. He was conscious. He knew where he was and what had happened, terrible as it was.
He complained of a major headache and suffered some swelling where the ball hit head. And so he was taken to Harborview Medical Center for evaluation.
The teams finished the game, even though several players clearly looked like they did not want to. Guerrero trotted back out to first base, his eyes open to his soul, misting, darting anywhere but back to the pitching mound when Sean Green came in and the eighth inning continued.
Several Mariners leaned against the railing of the dugout. Some whispered back and forth. More than a few hands clasped in prayer.
They were forced to regroup, because sports move on, eventually and almost always immediately, but it wasn't as easy as it sounds.
Green allowed a hit, and so did George Sherrill, and all of the sudden, the go-ahead run came to the plate.
No one would blame them if they folded there. But Putz is not the folding kind, and he relieved Sherrill and forced five outs in a row to seal the victory.
His eyes were red afterward as he recounted manager Mike Hargrove leading the team in prayer after the eighth inning and again after the game.
Jarrod Washburn shared the same look afterward. He had just turned in his third win this month, pitching seven innings and striking out four, and he stared behind the media and said he didn't really remember pitching.
"This is the worst I've ever felt after a win," Washburn said.
Soriano suffered a head injury and a concussion, but at Harborview he took a CT scan and an MRI, both of which offered results team physician Dr. Edward Khalfayan termed "reassuring."
Khalfayan said Soriano suffered a "closed head injury," meaning a direct blow to the head, directly behind his right ear. Doctors decided to hold Soriano overnight for observation and take more tests today. That was the extent of information regarding his condition Tuesday night.
After the game, pitching coach Rafael Chaves tugged on street clothes and rushed out of the clubhouse. Hargrove also went directly to the hospital. And those who weren't going to see Soriano were talking about him, thinking about him, praying for him.
"I'm just worried about [Soriano]," Washburn said. "Hoping everything is going to be all right."
Guerrero, too, was thinking about Soriano, issuing a statement after the game.
"It's a terrible thing to have happened," the Angels right fielder said. "As soon as I turned around and saw him on the ground, all I could do was pray for him and his family that he will be OK."
The injury negated what could have been a celebratory night at Safeco Field. After all, the Mariners entered this homestand following one of the worst trips in franchise history — 11 days, 11 games, 11 losses to the American League West.
Since returning home, they beat the New York Yankees twice, swept the Boston Red Sox, won two straight, the past two, against the Angels and have won six in a row — the longest victory streak this season.
What else happened Tuesday night? Raul Ibanez set a career high with 104 runs batted in. His previous high of 103 came in 2002 with Kansas City.
Ichiro and Snelling hit back-to-back homers to lead off a game for only the second time in franchise history. Snelling hit two home runs for his first home runs this season and the first multihomer game of his career.
Washburn beat his old team despite also allowing back-to-back home runs. Ben Broussard even stole his first base as a Mariner.
And in the end, none of that mattered. Not with Soriano falling to the ground and Safeco Field falling silent.
Greg Bishop: 206-464-3191 or email@example.com