They were down to their last at-bats, the Mariners, and a game they desperately needed to win was quickly slipping from their grasp. Their divisional foes, the hated Texas Rangers, had built a lead in the top half of the seventh inning and managed to protect it through two frames since.
Now, the Rangers turned to their closer, a lanky right-hander by the name of Jeff Russell. The 34-year-old Russell had enjoyed his best years with Texas, even leading the American League in saves in 1989, his fifth year with the club. He had bounced around over the past three seasons, however, embarking on an odyssey that had taken him from Oakland, to Boston, to Cleveland, and finally back to Arlington. All the while he continued racking up saves, and it was this very situation, pitching in defense of a two-run Rangers lead, that Russell had grown accustomed to enjoying.
His first assignment would be to retire a pinch hitter, the speedy, switch-hitting Alex Diaz.
Diaz was in the midst of what would ultimately become his finest big league season. He would finish the year with career highs in a number of categories, including games played. And his 18 stolen bases would triple his next-best seasonal output hereafter. For now, though, Diaz was merely focused on reaching base by any means necessary.
The Mariners had squandered eight innings worth of opportunities, as well as a quality start by Felix Hernandez, and now scuffled into the ninth deadlocked in a 0-0 tie against the rival Los Angeles Angels.
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