Michael Saunders homers in Seattle's 1-0 victory
The offensive hero saluted the starting pitcher. The starting pitcher marveled over the reliever who bailed him out.
And the reliever savored a hard-earned 1-0 victory by the Mariners at Safeco Field over the rugged Texas Rangers and their arch-nemesis, Matt Harrison.
“We just took two games from the division winners right there,” said Josh Kinney after he wriggled out of a major eighth-inning jam to help preserve Blake Beavan’s 10th victory. “We should feel pretty good about ourselves. … I think it says a lot about our character winning that game.”
It was as tense as any game this season as the Mariners held on for their sixth 1-0 victory of the year, a franchise record — and did it against a pitcher, Harrison, who has owned them in his career, but especially this season.
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Harrison was trying to become the first pitcher to ever beat the Mariners five times in a season, but Beavan outpitched him. Barely. Beavan worked seven scoreless innings, while Harrison turned in a complete game, but was done in by one pitch. He left a slider up to Michael Saunders, who sent it over the right-field wall in the second inning for his 17th home run.
“He’s strong; he’s really strong,” Mariners manager Eric Wedge said. “He put a nice easy swing on it, but the ball went a long way. You don’t ever expect that to be enough to win the ballgame, but it was tonight.”
Saunders’ homer was a feat worthy of a postgame shaving-cream pie by the M’s purveyor of postgame pies, John Jaso.
“We finally figured out a way to beat him: Don’t let them score any runs,” Saunders said.
“He left an off-speed pitch up over the plate, and I was a little out in front.”
That would be the only run of the game, but there were several twists and turns still to come before the Mariners celebrated.
“The Rangers have arguably the most potent offense in the game,” Saunders said. “One through nine is a threat. That’s the best game I’ve ever seen Beavan pitch. To hold those guys to no runs is a feat in itself.”
It took Beavan shaking off a liner off his left foot in the fourth inning to stay in the game. It took a perfect relay from right fielder Casper Wells to second baseman Kyle Seager to catcher Jesus Montero to nail Nelson Cruz trying to score on a double into the corner by David Murphy later in the fourth.
But most of all, it took a dazzling relief effort by Kinney to bail out Beavan in the eighth after inheriting a no-outs, two-on jam.
“Honestly, I think that was the highlight of the game right there,” Beavan said. “I don’t even look at what I did today. I look at what a guy did coming out of the pen, a teammate, stepping up big right there with the heart of the order about to come up.”
Beavan started the eighth working on a seven-hit shutout. But when he gave up a leadoff double to Mitch Moreland and a walk, Wedge called for Kinney.
He was up to the task. After Ian Kinsler failed twice to get a bunt down, Kinney struck him out. Elvis Andrus flied out to center, and Michael Young struck out.
“I was telling myself I wanted to make every pitch a good quality pitch,” Kinney said. “There wasn’t much room for error. My mindset was to make strikeout pitches, pitcher’s pitches, and make them hit my best stuff. I couldn’t afford to throw one in the zone to those guys. They’re danged good hitters, and there was no room for error.”
One reason there was no room for error is that the Mariners had blown a bases-loaded, no-out opportunity against Harrison in the fourth.
“Whenever you get the bases loaded and don’t score, you think it might come back and bite you,” Wedge said. “Credit to Beavan and Kinney and (Tom) Wilhelmsen we were able to hang on.”
Wilhelmsen needed just seven pitches to work a 1-2-3 ninth for his 29th save as the last-place Mariners beat the first-place Rangers for the second consecutive night.
“We take every game seriously,” Saunders said. “We have 162 to play, and we’re not quitting. We’re also playing for next year, and to send a message we don’t quit. We took a big series off Texas, and we still have the Angels and A’s. Maybe we can break some hearts.”
Larry Stone: 206-464-3146 or firstname.lastname@example.org