Mike Cameron stood in the box, runners at first in second, his Seattle Mariners down two in the top of the ninth inning. Facing Philadelphia closer Jose Mesa, Cameron fouled back consecutive bunt attempts to fall behind in the count, 0-2.
On the next pitch, Mesa hurled a curveball towards homeplate and the Mariners’ centerfielder crushed it over the wall in left field to lead Seattle to a come-from-behind, 5-4 win over the Phillies Thursday evening in Veterans Stadium.
It was the ninth-straight victory for Seattle (40-18), all of which have come on the road. The win extended the Mariners team-high winning streak on the road to 13 games.
The Phillies (31-28) had a chance to either tie up the game or win it in the ninth after loading the bases with only one out. But Mariners’ closer Kazuhiro Sasaki got Jim Thome to strike out and Bobby Abreu to fly to center, ending the game.
Earlier in the final inning, Philadelphia appeared to have a golden opportunity of knotting the score at five. After Tomas Perez led off with a single, pinch-hitter Jason Michaels scorched a Sasaki offering past Olerud down the right field line. The hit very well could have scored pinch runner Nick Punto all the way from first base, but a fan reached out and touched the baseball. Michaels was awarded a ground rule double, and Punto had to stay at third.
Cameron’s late-inning heroics were set up when Bret Boone led off the ninth with a single, and Olerud followed with a walk. Three pitches later, the Mariners had a one-run lead.
It was the first time in 30 games that the Phillies had lost once leading after eight innings.
Bret Boone belted his team-leading 17th homerun for the Mariners, one of two hits on the day. His recent hot-streak has his average up to .320, second only to Edgar Martinez (.324).
Seattle took the lead in the first inning when Ichiro scored on a wildpitch by Phillies’ starter Brandon Duckworth, but Philadelphia took control soon thereafter.
Duckworth helped his own cause in second inning with an RBI single to right field, scoring Pat Burrell and advancing Perez to third base. Placido Polanco, who came over from St. Louis in the Scott Rolen deal a year ago, brought Perez home with a sacrifice fly to make it 2-1 Philadelphia.
An inning later, it was catcher Mike Lieberthal who would come up big for the Phillies. With two runners on and nobody out, the veteran doubled home both – Thome and Abreu – to make it a 4-1 game.
That’s where it would stand until Boone’s solo shot in the fouth drew the M’s to within two.
Duckworth pitched his best game of the year, out-dueling Mariners starter Joel Pineiro. The right-hander gave up only four hits and two runs over seven innings, and struck out seven Mariners along the way.
Pineiro allowed four earned runs in six innings, but did strike out six.
Julio Mateo, who pitched a scoreless eighth inning for Seattle, earned his first major league victory. Sasaki, meanwhile, got save No. 10 on the season.
Mesa fell to 1-4, and saw his ERA raise to 5.62.