At the very least, Roenis Elias’ previous three starts had to cause a hint concern among Mariners’ brass.
The left-hander from Cuba had allowed 16 earned runs in 141/3 innings over the past month, and it was fair to wonder if the grind of a long season was starting to take its toll on the rookie.
For another reason, the ending of Elias’ start Monday also offered cause for concern, as he left the game abruptly with cramping in his left hand.
For one night, at least, both concerns abated after the Mariners’ 5-2 victory over the New York Mets.
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Elias won his first game since June 22, pitching effectively into the sixth inning before a crowd of 21,943 at Safeco Field. After the game, he said his pitching hand was “good.”
“He just had a cramp in his hand, and I didn’t want to take a chance,” Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon said. “He was outstanding, and that was really good to see. He threw the ball extremely well.”
Elias (8-8), in his first start in 12 days, had allowed only one run on 90 pitches in 51/3 innings. He struck out eight and walked two.
After Elias struck out the Mets’ Lucas Duda, McClendon and trainer Rob Nodine came out to the mound to check on the rookie for the second time in the sixth inning. McClendon immediately made the decision to pull Elias.
“He was checked out and assured me it was just muscle cramps. He should be fine,” McClendon said.
Elias had spent the All-Star break in Monterrey, Mexico, with his wife and young son.
“The rest definitely helped,” he said through a translator. “It especially helped seeing (my) family and seeing my son and my wife. It gave me more energy to go forward as the season goes along.”
Rookie Dominic Leone relieved Elias. The first batter Leone faced, Mets catcher Travis d’Arnaud, hit a high fly deep to left field, with the Mariners’ Dustin Ackley giving chase. Ackley leapt at the wall, stretched his glove over the top and then fell back onto his backside on the warning track.
After a dramatic pause, and with the Safeco Field crowd growing quiet, Ackley finally stood up and revealed the ball from his glove. The ever-stoic Ackley didn’t flinch — no smirk, and certainly no smile, after the best play of his career — as Leone raised both of his arms high in the air and pumped his right arm in celebration.
Ackley said he wasn’t even sure if he had caught the ball.
“I felt something,” he said. “Once I lost sight of my glove and the ball, I wasn’t really positive. I knew I felt something; I didn’t know if I felt it hit off my glove … but when I came down is when I knew I had it in my glove.”
The crowd gave Ackley a rousing standing ovation, and another as he jogged toward the dugout at the end of the inning.
“How ’bout that catch,” McClendon said.
Ackley was almost as good at the plate, going 3 for 4 with a run-scoring double to continue his torrid July. He’s 18 for 50 this month, a .360 average.
“The last five, six, seven games, I’ve felt pretty good. And the results are there too, so that always builds confidence for sure,” Ackley said.
Willie Bloomquist, batting leadoff and playing shortstop, had hits in his first three at-bats for the Mariners, scoring two runs and driving in another with a ground-rule double to center.
Kyle Seager added run-scoring singles in his first two at-bats, giving him a team-leading 66 RBI.
Mets third baseman David Wright, on the 10-year anniversary of his major-league debut, had a two-out run-scoring single in the third inning off Elias.
Mike Zunino, hitting just .095 in July entering Monday, hit a mammoth third-inning home run to the upper deck in left field on the first pitch he saw. It was the Zunino’s 14th homer of the season, and the Mariners estimated it traveled 415 feet. That gave the Mariners a 3-1 lead.
Bloomquist’s run-scoring double made it 4-1 in the fourth, and Ackley’s run-scoring double made it 5-1 in the eighth.
After the game, the Mariners optioned first baseman Justin Smoak back to Class AAA Tacoma.
|AL wild-card standings|
|The top two wild-card teams play each other in a one-game playoff.|
Adam Jude: 206-464-2364 or firstname.lastname@example.org.