The Padres, who already have had a terrible week in which they were dubbed “miserable failures” by executive chairman Ron Fowler, made some history on Thursday night—and not in a good way. In a series with the Mariners that had already contained two slugfests, the NL West's doormats blew a 12–2 lead and lost 16–13, thereby setting franchise records for both the largest lead blown and the highest-scoring game in Petco Park history. It was the largest lead blown in the majors—or, from the Mariners' standpoint, the greatest in-game comeback—since 2009.
A night after pouncing on Mariners emergency starter James Paxton for six first-inning runs, the Padres racked up four in the first against Seattle's Wade Miley via five hits and a walk. They carried a 5–2 lead into the bottom of the fifth, drove Miley from the game with another rally that included three hits, a walk and a balk, and kept the line moving against reliever Mike Montgomery until they'd sent 13 batters to the plate, scored seven runs and expanded their lead to 12–2. Alas, Padres starter Colin Rea fell apart in the next half-inning, allowing four out of five batters to reach base; Kyle Seager's two-run double drove him from the game, and reliever Brad Hand immediately served up a three-run homer to pinch-hitter Dae-ho Lee, trimming the lead to 12–7.
But wait, there's more! The Mariners sent 14 batters to the plate in the seventh inning against three San Diego relievers and added nine more runs; at one point, seven straight hitters singled. Now staked to a 16–12 lead, they allowed just one more run the rest of the way. Seager wound up driving in five runs, Lee went 3 for 3 with four RBIs from the sixth inning onward, somebody got a hit from every place in the two teams' batting orders save for San Diego's No. 9 spot, and somebody scored a run from every spot save for San Diego's No. 7 hitter, Alexi Ramirez. Here's MLB's montage of the Mariners' comeback:
The ten-run comeback is the largest in the majors since July 20, 2009, when the A's came back to beat the Twins, 14–13; that one ended with Minnesota’s Michael Cuddyer being thrown out at the plate. Less than two months before that, the Indians had a 10-run comeback against the Rays on May 25, 2009—one that included seven ninth-inning runs. Believe it or not, there have been four comebacks even larger than those and that of the Mariners since the start of the 20th century. Here’s a quick rundown.
Aug. 5, 2001: Indians overcome 12-run deficit against Mariners
While they were on the right side of the ledger on Thursday night, the Mariners were on the short end of the record-tying comeback, that in a season in which they would go on to win a record 116 games. In this one, which came in a Sunday night game televised by ESPN, Seattle built a 12–0 lead early, scoring four runs in the second against Cleveland starter Dave Burba, capped by eventual AL Rookie of the Year and MVP Ichiro Suzuki's two-run single. The M's added eight more runs in the third, chasing Burba with three straight singles and keeping the line moving against Mike Bacsik until they'd sent 13 men to the plate.
Jim Thome got the Indians on the board with a two-run homer off Aaron Sele in the fourth, but Bacsik gave those runs right back. The game was 14–2 in the bottom of the seventh when Russell Branyan led off with a homer, followed by the Indians loading the bases and chasing Sele; a Jolbert Cabrera double cut the lead to 14–5.
Another homer by Thome plus one by Marty Cordova and then a two-run double by Omar Vizquel closed the gap to 14–9 in the eighth. Vizquel's bases-loaded triple tied it in the ninth, and the Mariners won it in the 11th when Kenny Lofton, Vizquel and Cabrera strung together three straight hits against Jose Paniagua. The last of those was a broken-bat single that saw the speedy Lofton motor home from second base, just beating the throw—the fourth time he'd gotten on base and third time he'd scored from the seventh inning onward. In one of the signature moments of his Hall of Fame-caliber–17-year career, Lofton leapt so high after scoring that teammate Eddie Taubensee hefted him over his shoulder, carrying him around triumphantly. Here's that moment, as well as Vizquel's game-tying hit, both called by the great Jon Miller:
June 15, 1925: A's overcome 12-run deficit against the Indians
There's no video from this one, but this game did feature half a dozen future Hall of Famers. On Philadelphia's side, there was manager Connie Mack, outfielder Al Simmons (normally a leftfielder but playing center on this day), catcher Mickey Cochrane and first baseman Jimmie Foxx (pinch-hitting here as a 17-year-old rookie, in just the seventh game of his career). For Cleveland, there was manager/centerfelder Tris Speaker and shortstop Joe Sewell.
The Indians built a 14–2 lead over the first 5 1/2 innings, scoring four runs apiece against three pitchers, including Philadelphia starter Eddie Rommel. They still led 15–4 going into the bottom of the eighth when the A's rallied for an astounding 13 runs via nine hits and four walks against flagging starter Jake Miller and three hapless relievers, two of whom didn't retire a single batter. Simmons's three-run homer, the last of Philadelphia's 19 hits (still five fewer than the Indians), gave the A's a 17–15 lead they wouldn't relinquish.
June 8, 1911: Tigers overcome 12-run deficit against White Sox
This one took some digging, as Retrosheet and thus Baseball-Reference.com have no box scores, and the archived copy of The Sporting News (the single best perk of being a SABR member) is downright illegible. Fortunately, a box score and summary of the Washington Post’s account of the game are available (with subscription) at Newspapers.com. The lead paragraph is worth including here:
“In a game of a thousand thrills, Detroit nosed out the White Sox, after the visiting athletes had piled up a twelve-run advantage. It took but a portion of the opening session to prove conclusively that a bad guess had been made by [Tigers manager Hughie] Jennings in sending [starter Ed] Summers to the firing line, for the South Siders macerated, banged, walloped, and emasculated his offerings to all portions of the lot including between the two foul lines, pushing across seven markers.”
Summers didn’t even make it out of the first inning, retiring just one batter and yielding four hits and two walks (plus at least one of Detroit’s four errors for the day). The Sox built a 13–1 lead through the first 4 1/2 innings. The Tigers cut the lead with four runs in the fifth and three more in the sixth, and while Chicago scored two in the seventh, Detroit answered with five in the eighth via five singles and two walks, cutting the lead to 15–13. They scored three in the ninth: Ty Cobb's two-run single—his fifth hit and fourth and fifth RBIs of the game—tied the score, and Sam Crawford's double off Ed Walsh—the Tigers’ 27th of the day, compared to the White Sox’s 25—brought home Cobb for a 16–15 win. Cobb, Crawford, Jennings and Walsh are all in the Hall of Fame.
April 17, 1976: Phillies overcome 11-run deficit against Cubs
This game is remembered for future Hall of Famer Mike Schmidt's four-homer effort, the 10th time in history a batter hit four in a game (including Bobby Lowe's 1894 effort, and Ed Delahanty's 1896 one, which don't show up in the Play Index) and the fourth time a batter did so in four straight plate appearances after Lowe, Lou Gehrig (1932) and Rocky Colavito ('59). Schmidt didn't even collect his first hit until the Cubs piled 12 runs on future Hall of Famer Steve Carlton and two relievers in the second and third innings, building a 12–1 lead. Schmidt led off the fourth with a single against Cubs starter Rick Reuschel and came around to score on a Dave Cash single, but the Cubs' Rick Monday answered with a homer. Schmidt hit a two-run shot in the fifth and then a solo homer in the seventh after the Phillies had already plated three runs; that rally closed the gap to 13–7. After Dick Allen's two-run single in the eighth, Schmidt then followed with a three-run homer, trimming the lead to 13–12.
The Phillies rallied for three runs in the top of the ninth, as Bob Boone (father of Bret and Aaron) led off with a homer, and Larry Bowa hit an RBI triple and scored on a sacrifice bunt. Phillies closer Tug McGraw couldn't hold the lead, as Steve Swisher (father of Nick) capped a four-hit rally with a two-run single, his third and fourth RBIs of the game, sending the epic contest into extra innings. Schmidt then hit a two-run homer off Paul Reuschel (Rick's brother) in the 10th, his fourth of the game, to collect his seventh and eighth RBIs. As called by the late, great Harry Kalas:
The Phillies added another run to expand the lead to 18–15. The Cubs scored once and brought the tying run to the plate, but starter Jim Lonborg came out of the bullpen to retire Jerry Morales on a game-ending grounder.