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Mitch Garver hits a walkoff home run as Mariners stun Braves

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With the Mariners seemingly three outs away from wasting a brilliant pitching performance from Bryce Miller while being held scoreless due to another night of swings-and-misses and wasted scoring opportunities, Mitch Garver turned the looming night of frustration into a walk-off party with one swing of the bat.

Garver unleashed a 3-2 cutter from Atlanta left-hander AJ Minter, sending a ball deep over the left field wall for a two-run homer and the Mariners to a stunning 2-1 walkoff victory over the Braves on Monday night at T – Mobile park.

“Good pitching, timely hitter, 'W',” said manager Scott Servais. “It's a nice way to start this series. It's clear they have a good team. We know we have a good team and we don't even move offensively like I know we can. But you still have to find a way to win these games because our pitching was fantastic. I can't say it enough. It's every night.”

The Mariners gave minimal indications that such a dramatic victory was coming. They had been held hitless through the first seven innings and somehow managed not to score a run in the eighth inning despite the bases loaded and one out.

Leading 1-0, Atlanta brought in Minter to pitch the bottom of the ninth inning, while regular closer Raisel Iglesias was unavailable due to usage.

His first pitch was hit through the left side, resulting in a leadoff single by Jorge Polanco.

It brought Garver to the plate as the winning run. He took three consecutive balls from Minter and thought he had drawn ball four.

“That 3-0 pitch didn't feel right and it didn't look right (to me, the plate),” he said. “It was probably a perfect pitch.”

Minter fired a 3-1 cutter to the outside corner, which Garver took for a called strike. Looking for a fastball in the zone, Minter instead left a cutter in the middle of the plate.

Granted, he got off to a slower start than he or the Mariners expected, but Garver has worked through the pregame work to find consistency at the plate. During the road trip, he started hitting the ball hard, but it was usually on the ground near the third baseman.

“I've been cutting some balls lately,” he said. “It's the nature of the beast. This game is brutal and unforgiving.”

Not this time. The ball flew off his bat at 105 miles per hour and was undoubtedly a home run. He threw the bat into the air as if it were a microphone, with a sense of “relief” as his teammates rushed out of the dugout to celebrate and the crowd of 26,452 rose to their feet in a frenzy.

“That was my first walkoff home run in professional baseball, so that was pretty special for me,” he said. “At a time when things aren't going my way and I'm not feeling quite like myself, being able to come through for the team in any way is like a huge 'W', so I was really there happy to.”

Garver came into the series opener vs. the Braves with a .122/.280/.293 slash line in his last 13 games with a double, two home runs, three RBI, eight walks and 15 strikeouts.

“For me it's just controlling what I can control well,” he said. “I come in every day with the same effort and attitude as I can. I can't chase results. I can't fight referees. I can't blame people. This is up to me and I have to do this myself. It doesn't belong to anyone else.”

It was actually the only highlight produced by a Mariners offense that managed to squander a bases-loaded, no-out situation in the eighth inning.

Through the first five innings, Atlanta starter Max Fried and Seattle starter Bryce Miller flirted with no-hitters.

Fried pitched six hitless innings with two walks and seven strikeouts. In his previous outing, he was coming off a complete game shutout against the Marlins.

Miller was perfect through five innings, retiring the first 15 batters he faced with efficiency and power. His bid for a perfect game ended with one out in the sixth inning when he walked Travis d'Arnaud on four pitches.

“I was frustrated with the walk,” Miller said. “It was one of those things where I saw how he reacted to the first ball. So then I think, 'Okay, I guess he's not swinging.' So then I just throw it down the middle. And instead I throw four consecutive balls.”

But that first base runner was immediately erased when Miller got Jarred Kelenic to ground into a 4-6-3 double play to end the inning.

Miller's bid for a no-hitter and shutout ended in the seventh inning. Ronald Acuña interrupted the no-hit bid when his hard ground ball up the middle could not be cleared cleanly by Dylan Moore's fly attempt. Given Acuña's top speed, if Moore had played, he probably wouldn't have beaten him. The official scorer ruled it an infield single, prompting some boos from the fans when the scoreboard showed a hit for the Braves.

Miller allowed his first run moments later. Acuña stole second, then stole third and raced home when Ozzie Albies hit a double into the right-center gap for a 1-0 lead.

Unlike some pitchers who implode as soon as they lose their no-hit bid and rush to a shutout, Miller regrouped and came back to strike out Austin Riley and Matt Olson. He ended his performance, causing Marcel Ozuna to fly to right field.

“To get the next three guys out, that was great,” Servais said. “That shows me so much where he is in terms of maturity. So many guys when they have a night like that and it starts to get away from them, they just lose it. And he didn't.”

Miller's final line: Seven innings pitched, one run allowed on two hits with a walk and 10 strikeouts.

The Mariners tried to answer in the eighth. Ty France finished a leadoff walk to righty Joe Jimenez. Josh Rojas broke up the no-hitter with a pinch-hit single through the right side. After Luis Urias struckout, pinch-hitter Luke Raley followed with an infield single to load the bases and move to the top of the rankings.

But Julio Rodriguez hit a fly ball to left field that wasn't deep enough for pinch runner Leo Rivas to tag and score, and Mitch Haniger struck out to end the inning.

BOX SCORE

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