To say that the Angels were facing an uphill battle entering the ninth inning on Sunday would be a massive understatement.
Entering play on Sunday, team’s that had been trailing by six or more runs entering the ninth inning since 2011 were a combined 2529-1. Add in the fact that the Mariners have lock-down closer Edwin Diaz in their bullpen and the result of this game was inevitable, right?
With a 9-3 lead heading into the final frame, the Mariners turned to right-hander Casey Fien. He immediately served up a solo homer to Albert Pujols on the first pitch that he fired, breathing life into the Angels’ offense.
Cliff Pennington then worked an eight-pitch walk, followed by a single from C.J. Cron and a four-pitch walk to Ben Revere. M’s skipper Scott Servais had seen enough and went to his stopper Diaz to stop the bleeding.
Diaz retired Danny Espinosa on a ground out to second base, which allowed Pennington to score making it a 9-5 ballgame. He then blew away Martin Maldonado on strikes for the second out of the inning. The Angels weren’t done battling though. Yunel Escobar followed with a two-run double, cutting the deficit to 9-7.
At that point, Diaz lost complete command of his pitches. He walked Kole Calhoun on four pitches, the third of which went to the backstop. Making matters worse, he couldn’t find a strike against Mike Trout who also drew a four-pitch walk.
Inexplicably, Servais opted to stick with Diaz at this point. Pujols, who started the inning with his homer, lined a 1-0 pitch into right field, plating two runs to tie the game. Cliff Pennington followed by lining the first pitch he saw into deep right field for a walk-off single.
With the brutal loss, the Mariners finish a miserable first week of the season with a 1-6 record and are now tasked with getting Edwin Diaz his confidence back in the ninth inning.
Meanwhile, the Angels should be flying high off of their historic comeback win, erasing the bad outing from starter Matt Shoemaker on Sunday. The Halos finish the first week with a 5-2 record and at least for the meantime get to masquerade as contenders in the American League West.
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Change coming in Philadelphia?
Phillies closer Jeanmar Gomez entered the 2017 season with a tenuous hold on the ninth-inning job. Despite his poor finish to the 2016 season, manager Pete Mackanin thought he had earned the right to start in the role after saving 37 games for the Phillies last year.
His run as the Phillies’ stopper could be over after just three appearances this year. Gomez was shaky in his first save opportunity of the season, allowing a two-run homer but narrowly escaping with a one-run win against the Reds on Opening Day. He worked a clean inning with a pair of strikeouts on Friday, giving fantasy owners some hope that the right-hander was back on track and may deliver at least a few saves before losing his job.
On Sunday, he suffered his first blown save of the 2017 campaign, surrendering a three-run homer to Ryan Zimmerman with two outs in the ninth inning. He did manage to earn a victory for his horrendous work after the Phillies went on to win in the bottom half of the inning, but the writing appears to be on the wall.
When asked about Gomez’ job status after the game, manger Pete Mackanin noted "I'll have something for you tomorrow. I need to talk with him." Hector Neris was drafted ahead of Gomez in most fantasy drafts this spring and he seems to be the most likely candidate to take over if indeed there is a change. Neris hasn’t allowed a run and owns a 4/1 K/BB ratio over 3 1/3 innings on the young season.
Joaquin Benoit is another option who has prior closing experience, though he was used in the sixth inning on Sunday. Unless Mackanin decides that he’s best served to keep Neris in his primary setup role where he has the ability to work multiple innings, Benoit probably isn’t going to get the job.
Either one make for decent speculative adds early on Monday though before news breaks of what exactly is said in the conversation between Mackanin and Gomez.
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The Angels weren’t the only team to send their faithful home happy with a walk-off win on Sunday.
The Astros had to rally twice to accomplish the feat against the Royals. Jake Marisnick blasted a solo homer off of Royals’ closer Kelvin Herrera in the ninth inning to tie the game at 3-3 and force extra innings.
Swingman Chris Devenski kept the KC offense at bay by striking out seven over four innings of one-run ball in relief, extending the game into the 12th where the Astros’ offense wouldn’t be denied.
George Springer started the rally with an infield single off of Matt Strahm and was sacrificed to second by Alex Bregman. Jose Altuve was walked intentionally to set up the double play and Strahm got the ground ball he needed from Carlos Correa, but the speedy shortstop beat the relay to first. Brian McCann then fouled off four two-strike pitches to earn a 10-pitch walk, loading the bases for Evan Gattis.
The White Bear got ahead in the count 3-1 before spoiling a pitch foul. Strahm was again unable to find the zone, walking Gattis to bring home Springer as the winning run.
The Pirates also needed a couple of rallies to extend and ultimately win their game as well on Sunday.
The Bucs entered the ninth inning trailing by a run, but squeaked out a run against Braves’ closer Jim Johnson to force extra innings.
The Braves made it even more difficult by scoring a run of their own in the top half of the 10th inning, the Pirates wouldn’t be denied though. Adam Frazier started the inning with a double off of Braves’ reliever Jose Ramirez, setting the table for Starling Marte who already had three hits to his credit on the afternoon.
Marte send the first pitch he saw over the wall in center field with a towering walk-off blast. He finished his impressive afternoon 4-for-5
And finally, after the implosion by Jeanmar Gomez in the top half of the ninth inning on Sunday, the Phillies were able to rally back and earn him a victory. Cesar Hernandez played the role of hero in that one, with a run-scoring single to plate Daniel Nava who had walked to leadoff the inning and advanced to third on a single by Freddy Galvis.
Koda Glover was saddled with the loss in that contest, taking some of the pressure off of closer Blake Treinen.
American League Quick Hits: Josh Donaldson left Sunday’s game against the Rays with a calf injury, but he’s optimistic that he’ll be able to play in Tuesday’s home opener… Robinson Cano broke out of his early-season slump with a homer and five RBI in a loss to the Angels… Mitch Haniger blasted his third home run of the season in that contest… Joey Gallo homered and drove in five in a victory over the A’s and is making it difficult for the Rangers to send him back to Triple-A upon Adrian Beltre’s return… Ervin Santana fired six shutout innings to beat the White Sox… Aaron Judge homered and drove home a pair as the Yankees beat the Orioles… Matt Holliday drew a remarkable five walks in that contest… Darren O’Day imploded in the ninth inning there, allowing four runs and taking the loss… Sandy Leon’s go-ahead two-run single in the eighth inning led the Red Sox past the Tigers… Corey Dickerson, Steven Souza Jr. and Jesus Sucre all took Marco Estrada deep in Sunday’s win… After one poor start, Raul Alcantara has been demoted to the Athletics’ bullpen in favor of Jesse Hahn.
National League Quick Hits: Trea Turner (hamstring) is set to be re-evaluated on Monday. Nationals’ manager Dusty Baker termed his injury as “so-so” when asked about it on Sunday and there’s growing optimism that he’ll be able to avoid a trip to the disabled list… Noah Syndergaard punched out nine over seven innings of one-run ball in a victory over the Marlins… Freddie Freeman blasted a pair of homers and stole a base in a losing effort against the Pirates… Buster Posey and Hunter Pence went deep in a win over the Padres… Hot-hitting Yangervis Solarte had three hits and a homer in a loss to the Giants… Chris Owings went 3-for-4 with a homer and two stolen bases as the D’Backs swept the Indians… Corey Seager launched his second homer in a win over the Rockies… Jason Heyward tripled and drove in three runs as the Cubs beat the Brewers… Ryan Braun belted a three-run homer in a loss to the Cubs… Adam Duvall and Joey Votto left the yard as the Reds pounded the Cardinals… Scott Feldman fired six shutout innings in that one… Luke Weaver was placed on the 7-day disabled list at Triple-A Memphis…Jarred Cosart is set to start for the Padres on Monday in place of the injured Trevor Cahill… The Braves signed veteran right-hander Jason Motte to a minor league contract… The Nationals re-signed 42-year-old Joe Nathan to a minor league deal… Jeremy Hellickson was forced to leave Sunday’s start with a cramp in his forearm, he’ll be re-evaluated on Monday… Devin Mesoraco (hip, shoulder) is set to catch all nine innings in a minor league rehab game with Double-A Pensacola on Monday…Adeiny Hechavarria landed on the 10-day disabled list with a left oblique strain… Joe Ross may not join the Nationals’ rotation until April 22 when they first need a fifth starter.