The ball shot off Cameron Maybin’s bat in the eighth inning on Sunday, and as it steamed toward the deepest part of Angel Stadium on a laser-like line, visions of a game-tying three-run double or go-ahead grand slam filled the home dugout.
Until Guillermo Heredia so rudely intervened.
The Seattle Mariners center fielder raced to the warning track and made a spectacular leaping grab, double-clutching the ball in his glove before running into the wall to save an eventual 5-3 victory over the Angels and leave his counterpart shaking his head.
“Dude made a good play, man, you gotta tip your hat,” said Maybin, who plays center field for the Angels. “It’s unfortunate, but I’ve done the same thing to a lot of guys in my career, and it’s just a part of the game. I hit it good. It was a tie game if that ball falls. It was a huge play.”
Robinson Cano, facing hard-throwing Angels rookie Keynan Middleton, had hit a three-run homer off the right-field foul pole in the top of the eighth to turn a 2-1 Seattle lead into a seemingly comfortable 5-1 cushion.
It did not deflate the Angels, who lead the American League with 26 come-from-behind wins. They simply went to work against reliever Nick Vincent, opening the bottom of the eighth with singles by Martin Maldonado, Luis Valbuena and pinch-hitter Nick Franklin, the latter hit scoring a run to make it 5-2.
Ben Revere lofted a single to right-center to load the bases, and Maybin crushed a 91-mph fastball from Vincent to center, where Heredia made his play.
“Off the bat, I didn’t think there was any way he was gonna get it, but he had a really clean route and covered a lot of ground,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. “That’s as good a catch as you’re gonna see.”
Valbuena tagged and scored on the play to make it 5-3, and Franklin took third. Seattle manager Scott Servais summoned left-hander Marc Rzepczynski to face Kole Calhoun, who, after Revere stole second, popped out to second.
On came closer Edwin Diaz, who suffered a devastating loss in Anaheim on April 9, when the Angels scored seven runs in the ninth for a 10-9 win.
Albert Pujols, who hit a home run and a two-run single in that April rally, grounded to shortstop Jean Segura, who bobbled the ball before throwing wide of first base.
First baseman Danny Valencia was able to keep his foot on the bag while lunging for the ball, his momentum carrying him to the ground while two Angels crossed the plate.
Those runs wouldn’t count. The out call was confirmed by a 41-second replay review, and the Mariners escaped with their 5-3 lead intact. Diaz struck out two in a one-two-three ninth for his 13th save.
“We continued to fight the whole game,” Maybin said. “That’s what I love about being on this team. We’re never out of any game. No matter the score, we continue to put up good at-bats. We fight every day, and that makes it fun.”
There wasn’t much fight in the Angels for the first six innings Sunday. Seattle left-hander James Paxton needed only 58 pitches to breeze through five innings and had a perfect game until Danny Espinosa’s one-out single in the sixth.
Segura’s first two hits of a four-hit game — an RBI single in the third and an RBI double in the fifth — gave Seattle a 2-0 lead.
The Angels scored in the seventh when Calhoun and Pujols walked and Yunel Escobar lined an RBI single to right. Pujols took third on Escobar’s hit, but the rally fizzled when submarine-throwing right-hander Steve Cishek replaced Paxton and got Andrelton Simmons to bounce into an inning-ending double play.
Segura’s single and Ben Gamel’s walk in the eighth preceded the homer by Cano, who has 17 homers and 60 RBIs on the season.
Angels starter Jesse Chavez went five innings, giving up two runs and four hits, striking out three and walking two to fall to 5-9 with a 4.97 ERA.
Follow Mike DiGiovanna on Twitter @MikeDiGiovanna