SEATTLE (AP) – Brayan Pena knew the collision was coming. All that mattered was keeping grasp of the ball.
“It doesn’t matter where your body is going to go, just hold onto the baseball,” he said.
Pena, Detroit’s catcher, held onto Prince Fielder’s relay throw and absorbed a collision with Justin Smoak at home plate for the final out, and the Tigers outlasted the Seattle Mariners 2-1 in 14 innings Wednesday night.
Smoak singled with one out off Joaquin Benoit, and with two outs Dustin Ackley doubled into the right-field corner. Third base coach Jeff Datz didn’t hesitate in waving Smoak around with the potential tying run.
Torii Hunter started the relay from the outfield, and Fielder’s throw was up the third base line a bit. Pena, however, caught it in plenty of time and held onto the ball as Smoak crashed into him, sending a mask and helmet flying.
“I thought the game was tied,” Detroit manager Jim Leyland said about Ackley’s double. “And I also thought the third base coach made a great call. We have to execute it.”
Lying face down in the dirt, Pena held up the ball in his bare hand to show plate umpire Bob Davidson and shook his fist in triumph before teammates helped him up.
“I got dizzy,” Pena said. “I think he hit me in the chin as he was running toward me. I wanted (the umpire) to see it because I don’t know his view.”
The collision at the plate concluded a wild night when both starting pitchers, Felix Hernandez and Max Scherzer, were at the top of their games and the teams combined for a whopping 40 strikeouts.
Pena came through twice in the 14th inning for the Tigers. It was his bases-loaded grounder that allowed Don Kelly to score the go-ahead run in the top of the inning and it was his defensive gem that finally sent everyone home after 4 hours, 27 minutes.
“Nobody deserved to lose in a game like this,” Pena said.
Drew Smyly (1-0), the seventh of eight Tigers pitchers, worked the 13th inning for the victory. Benoit earned his first save of the season.
According to the Mariners, it was the second time in major league history that both teams had more than 18 strikeouts. The only other time was June 16, 2001, when the Giants and Padres both struck out 20 times in a 15-inning game.
Detroit batters tied the team record for most strikeouts in a game with 21 — five by Fielder, who was hitless in six at-bats.
“I’m not much for those kind of records. All I know we are 2-0 the last two nights and that’s all that matters, that column with the Ws and Ls,” Leyland said.
Hernandez and Scherzer almost became afterthoughts on this long night, but their performances will be tough to top the rest of the season.
Both pitchers finished with 12 strikeouts. Each threw eight strong innings. And neither could get help from their respective offenses to get the victory.
According to the Mariners, with information from the Elias Sports Bureau, the performance by Scherzer and Hernandez was the first time two starters had at least 12 strikeouts and allowed no more than one earned run since Randy Johnson and Mark Langston hooked up in 1992.
How good were Scherzer and Hernandez? Scherzer threw 105 pitches with 75 strikes; Hernandez threw 106 with 76 strikes.
“It was a great game. Both sides,” Hernandez said. “Scherzer was pretty good, too. He was changing speeds, he was throwing breaking balls. I was just trying to match it up. I was trying to be aggressive. Against a team like that you have to be in attack mode.”
Hernandez retired 12 of his first 13 batters, including six strikeouts. The only one to reach was Miguel Cabrera, who dumped a single in front of Franklin Gutierrez in right-center with two outs in the first.
The 12 strikeouts for Hernandez were the most since his perfect game against Tampa Bay last August when he also struck out 12. It was Hernandez’s ninth career start with 12 or more strikeouts. He was replaced to start the ninth by closer Tom Wilhelmsen. Hernandez gave up four hits and didn’t walk a batter.
While Hernandez was rolling, Scherzer was just as good. He retired the first nine and didn’t allow a runner until Gutierrez reached on an infield single leading off the fourth. Seattle finally got to Scherzer in the seventh when Michael Morse led off with a double and Raul Ibanez followed with a single to tie it at 1.
Scherzer set a season-high with his 12 strikeouts. He had 11 against Oakland in his previous start.
“Hernandez was unbelievable. He was Hernandez being Hernandez,” Pena said. “But Max, he was great. I’ve never seen him like that before. He was toe-to-toe with Hernandez.”
Detroit’s only run off Hernandez was unearned, after Victor Martinez reached on shortstop Brendan Ryan’s error to open the fifth inning and scored on Jhonny Peralta’s groundout.
NOTES: It was the first time since Safeco Field opened in July 1999 that both starting pitchers had 10 or more strikeouts. … RHP Jose Valverde pitched for the Tigers’ extended spring training squad in Florida vs. the Braves. He tossed a scoreless inning with one strikeout. … At Triple-A Tacoma, Carlos Truinfel needed just five innings to hit for the cycle. He was the first Tacoma player to hit for the cycle since Ibanez in 1997.
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