CHICAGO — Perhaps the struggles on the South Side are coming to an end for the Mariners.
Long after squandering a gem of a performance from starting pitcher Felix Hernandez, long after improbably tying the score in the top of the ninth, the Mariners finally picked up a rare win at U.S. Cellular Field on Saturday.
Brad Miller doubled to left-center to score Michael Saunders from second for the go-ahead run in the top of the 14th.
Fernando Rodney closed out the bottom of the 14th to notch his league-high 25th save to secure a 3-2, 4-hour, 38-minute marathon win over the White Sox.
It was just the Mariners’ fifth win in 28 games at U.S. Cellular, dating to 2008.
“The last couple years here, it’s been tough for us,” Saunders said.
Seattle will attempt to win its first series at the park since 2007 on Sunday with rookie Taijuan Walker getting the start.
“We just kept fighting,” Miller said. “It was a good game. It was exhausting, but a lot of fun.”
Miller’s at-bat in the 14th was also exhausting. White Sox reliever Ronald Belisario got up on him immediately with two quick strikes. But Miller wouldn’t give in. He took a pitch in the dirt, fouled off five pitches, watched as Saunders stole second on a blown pitch out for another ball and took another ball to make the count full. On the 10th pitch of the at-bat, he lined a 95 mph fastball into left-center. The ball bounced off the warning track over the wall, allowing Saunders to jog home.
“With a guy like that, his stuff is so high octane, I was just trying to go up the middle,” Miller said.
The Mariners’ offense wasn’t high octane. The Mariners scattered 11 hits, but they were 2 for 12 with runners in scoring position.
“It was one of those days where we knew it was going to be tough to score,” manager Lloyd McClendon said.
Down 2-0 going into the top of the ninth, the Mariners scratched out two runs against the White Sox bullpen to tie the score. Mike Zunino’s sacrifice fly scored Robinson Cano. And with two outs, Saunders singled through the right side of the infield to score pinch-runner Dustin Ackley.
“In a situation like that, it’s easy to get yourself too amped up,” Saunders said. “He threw me two splitties, and then came with a cutter in and I was able to get it through.”
After getting carved up by All-Star left-hander Chris Sale on Friday night, it was fellow lefty Jose Quintana’s turn to cause problems.
Quintana tossed 72/3 scoreless innings, allowing just four hits while striking out 10 and walking one.
The Mariners had a chance to get a run off Quintana in the eighth inning. But with runners on first and third and one out, James Jones couldn’t put the ball in play, striking out on a high fastball. The White Sox went to right-handed reliever Jake Petricka to face Willie Bloomquist. The Mariners countered with pinch-hitter Endy Chavez, who grounded out to end the inning.
Hernandez was just as good. He didn’t give up a run for the first seven innings, allowing just one hit — a leadoff single to Adam Eaton to start the game.
But his dominance cracked in the eighth. He gave up a leadoff triple to Conor Gillaspie.
“That pitch, I would love to have it back,” Hernandez said of a 3-2 fastball that Gillaspie hammered. “It was a bad location, it leaked over the middle.”
Dayan Viciedo doubled Gillaspie home moments later. The White Sox tacked on another run with a sacrifice fly to make it 2-0.
Hernandez took a no decision, working eight innings and allowing the two runs on three hits with a walk and eight strikeouts.
Tom Wilhelmsen (1-1) was credited with the win, throwing two shutout innings. But the bullpen as a whole deserves a large portion of the credit. Five pitchers combined to throw six shutout innings and allow just one hit, while striking out six.
“We blew a couple of chances early, fought back and tied it up,” McClendon said. “I just thought we had a good chance because our bullpen matched up so well.”