Maurer allowed two earned runs in six innings, with five strikeouts and one walk as Seattle won, 4-3, after overcoming a 3-2 deficit.
After Sunday’s tense 4-3 win over the Rangers at Safeco Field, Mariners manager Eric Wedge was talking about Brandon Maurer’s perseverance through all the adversity and new situations he has faced as a first-time big leaguer.
As if on cue, a distant roar could be heard, causing Wedge to laugh.
“He’s going through another first now,” he said.
The commotion was the Mariners’ players giving Maurer the traditional beer shower bestowed upon a pitcher getting his first major-league victory. Maurer had earned his with a gutty rebound performance after two subpar outings, almost certainly facing his last chance to show he deserved to stay up.
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Maurer, who limited a tough Texas lineup to two earned runs in six innings, with five strikeouts and one walk, was wheeled into the shower room in a laundry cart, the customary means of transport on such occasions.
“It was cold,” he said. “They started it off with a nice bucket of cold ice water, and milk and ketchup. It’s good.”
The Mariners overcame a 3-2 deficit with two runs in the sixth inning via consecutive hits from Kyle Seager, Jesus Montero and Dustin Ackley, all of whom began the game hitting under .200. Earlier, Raul Ibanez hit his second home run of the season.
Throw in three scoreless innings of relief, capped by Tom Wilhelmsen’s fifth save, and it was an altogether good day for the Mariners in front of 16,981 fans. The only unsettling note was an injury to reliever Stephen Pryor, who was removed with two outs in the eighth inning with what was termed a strained right lat.
Pryor will be re-evaluated Monday — the Mariners’ first off day after playing 14 straight games out of the gate — but Wedge said, “There’s a chance he could miss some time.”
That would be a tough blow for a Mariners team that already saw its entire opening day outfield go down with injuries this week. Pryor has retired 22 of 26 batters he’s faced this year and has yet to give up a run. He struck out two in the seventh on Sunday to leave the potential tying run at second base.
Pryor said he first felt “tightness in the back of my shoulder, around my armpit” while pitching to Lance Berkman in the eighth. He retired Berkman and faced two more batters before coming out.
“It feels like a cramp, is the way I’d describe it,” he said. “It felt like it balled up and tightened up.”
Pryor, however, doesn’t believe he’ll miss extended time.
“It’s started to release a little and feel better than it did 20 minutes ago,” he said. “The team is fighting to win games, and I just want to be there to help. Hopefully, it’s a thing where I just miss a couple of games.”
As for Maurer, he lugged a 16.2 earned-run average coming into the game after getting shelled by the A’s and Astros. Opposing hitters were raking Maurer to the tune of a .469 average, but the Mariners opted to give him one more start. Their hope was that Maurer would finally be able to relax and show the form that led him to a stellar spring performance. Pitching coach Carl Willis had said they would simplify their preparation.
“To be honest, the game plan was to just throw my game, and not look too much into hot zones and cold zones for hitters,” Maurer said. “Get back to the basics.”
During the game, he concentrated on not rushing, sometimes consciously stopping to take deep breaths. The result was a crackling fastball that hit 94 mph and allowed him to rely less on breaking pitches.
“I was getting away from the fastball, and you have to throw your fastball,” he said. “I worked on being free with my arm, not being tight up top — just going out and having fun.”
After struggling early in his previous starts, Maurer worked a scoreless first with two strikeouts.
“That made me feel much more comfortable out there, going out and knowing my stuff would play,” he said.
The result was an outing that will keep Maurer in the Mariners’ rotation. All of the Rangers’ runs off him came with two outs, including one that scored on a passed ball by Jesus Montero.
“He was much more under control today,” Wedge said. “He looked more at ease, more comfortable, and obviously his stuff played out. He was noticeably different out there, I felt, with his poise.”
The only time Maurer may have lost his poise was in the laundry cart, much to the pleasure of the team’s senior member, 40-year-old Ibanez.
“That part of the game, for me, I never get tired of watching a young guy get his first major-league win,” Ibanez said. “More importantly, I was impressed with the way he was able to bounce back. He was able to erase that last one. That’s huge. I’m really excited for him.”
Larry Stone: 206-464-3146 or firstname.lastname@example.org.