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From Raley to Raleigh, Mariners’ grand rally one for the ages

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SEATTLE — Such is the state of the 2024 Seattle Mariners and the games they’ve played that the walk-off grand slam plays second fiddle.

The Mariners pulled off a wild 8-4 victory over the White Sox on Monday at T-Mobile Park, walking off on a Cal Raleigh grand slam on a 2-0 fastball grooved right down the middle by Chicago’s Jordan Leasure. It was Seattle’s fourth walk-off of the season, and its second walk-off homer.

But that’s not the top story of the night; that belongs to Luke Raley, who put the exclamation point on possibly the most unlikely of Mariners’ rallies this season in the most unexpected of ways.

With two outs and the tying run on third base — after Seattle had brought in three runs to wake up the crowd — Raley came to the plate. He had already put two balls in play Monday; the first was a 105.1 mph groundout, the second a 107.9 mph single.

This time, in a 1-1 count, Raley squared to bunt.

“I was waiting, looking at the third baseman every time,” Raley said. “He was in the first two pitches, and then he backed up and gave me that lane. I just decided to take a chance at it.”

He squared to bunt even though he knew he’d only get one shot at it. Foul it off and he’d be in a two-strike count. Bunt it too softly, or too hard, or right at someone, and it would be an easy out.

He squared to bunt, even though Michael Kopech’s offering happened to be a 99.1 mph fastball, closer to Raley’s head than any part of the plate.

He squared to bunt, even though no Mariner had tied the game up on a squeeze in the eighth inning or later since Mark McLemore on July 30, 2002.

But Raley got the bunt down, Josh Rojas came in to tie the game and Seattle had come all the way back after trailing 4-0 following seven listless innings from the offense.

“That’s something you maybe haven’t seen in the past couple years here,” Raleigh said of Raley’s bunt. “Doing something like that was huge.”

In the ninth, the top of the order kept the momentum going. J.P. Crawford and Rojas drew walks and Julio Rodríguez smoked a single to load the bases, setting the stage for Raleigh’s latest marquee moment.

“Big Dumper does what he does,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said. “Late in games, he always has big at-bats, and he’s always going to get the job done for us.”

Raleigh’s grand slam was his second career walk-off home run, but his 11th blast in the ninth inning or later. It was Seattle’s first walk-off grand slam since Shed Long Jr. on June 20, 2021.

And he almost didn’t get the chance. After getting wrung up during the eighth-inning rally on an inside fastball, Raleigh had words with home plate umpire Chris Guccione. Before he could go too far, Servais had bolted out of the dugout and gotten in the way — and was ejected in the process.

“I’m glad I got thrown out, because I can’t hit grand slams,” Servais said with a wry smile. “He can.”

The late uprising switched the story of the Mariners’ night completely, after they couldn’t manage anything against Chicago starter Erick Fedde, who held them scoreless through seven innings. That, in turn, made the day about Logan Gilbert, who once again shined despite receiving nothing by way of support.

Seattle’s 27-year-old right-hander finished with three runs allowed in 6 2/3 innings and struck out eight, but was left on the hook for a loss thanks to the Mariners’ silent bats.

“We needed him to go deep in the game, he did his job,” Servais said. “I’m glad the offense came back and picked him up.”

Monday was Gilbert’s third straight start without receiving a single run in support; his streak of 19 2/3 innings without any run support is the longest for a Mariners starter since Sam Gaviglio went 26 straight in 2017.

But before that could take over as the night’s theme, the offense once again flipped the switch, pulling off Seattle’s first four-run comeback since July 25, 2023.

“Just keep grinding and keep going and keep going,” Servais said. “If you really lean on each other, you have an opportunity for big things to happen at the end of the game.

“This won’t be the last time we do that. I feel very strongly about that.”

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