The Mariners improved to 69-65 and stopped hemorrhaging games in the wild-card standings.
It’s definitely not a strategy that the Mariners are using. But it yields positive results for Seattle when it happens.
For the third time in Mike Trout’s last four games at Safeco Field, the perennial American League MVP favorite and Los Angeles Angels All-Star outfielder belted a three-run homer in the first inning against Seattle — a suboptimal start, to be sure.
But in all three of those occasions, the Mariners have still managed to come back and win. This time it was an 11-8 victory Friday night, thanks to a nine-run second inning.
“It’s been amazing,” manager Scott Servais said of those wins. “First two guys get on and he hits it out of the park. He’s a great player, there’s no doubt. But we’ve got to do a better job in the first inning. You can’t keep giving up a three-spot or a four-spot and keep coming back.”
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The Mariners improved to 69-65 and stopped hemorrhaging games in the wild-card standings. But what seemed like a done deal in the ninth got scary when the Angels scored four runs before Edwin Diaz got a fly out from Trout, who was the tying run.
Seattle starter Ariel Miranda walked Yunel Escobar to start the game and then gave up a single to Kole Calhoun, bringing Trout to the plate. A misplaced 1-0 fastball up in the zone turned into Trout’s 26th homer of the year — a towering blast into right-center just out of the reach of Ben Gamel’s leaping attempt. Later in the inning, Jefry Marte blasted a solo homer to left to make it 4-0. Miranda needed 41 pitches to make it through the frame.
It was a frustrating beginning for the Mariners after a demoralizing road trip in which they had lost their last five games, and seven of their last eight.
“We were down four but you would’ve never known it in our dugout,” Servais said.
But unlike the road trip from hell where they faced tough starting pitcher after tough starting pitcher, the Mariners were facing middling lefty Brett Oberholtzer and an Angels pitching staff more beat up than their own.
The Mariners answered with a run in the bottom of the first to take a chunk out of the lead. And while more offense was expected, what transpired in the second inning certainly wasn’t.
Seattle exploded for nine runs in the frame to turn a 4-1 deficit into a 10-4 lead. The Mariners knocked Oberholtzer out of the game and kept pouring it on against his replacement, Jhoulys Chacin.
“That whole inning was huge,” Servais said. “Guys were taking some balls the other way, not trying to do too much. Not trying to hit homers.”
It started with Dae-Ho Lee’s single to right field and ended about 45 minutes later with Gamel striking out looking. Between then, the Mariners tied their largest run output in an inning for the season. A few tidbits from the inning.
•Fourteen hitters came to the plate.
•Nine runs on six hits — all singles.
•Oberholtzer and Chacin combined to issues five walks, one intentional and one with the bases loaded.
•The quartet of Lee, Leonys Martin, Mike Zunino and Ketel Marte combined to go 5 for 5, draw three walks, score six runs and drive in six runs.
Given a six-run cushion to pitch with, Miranda pitched his next five innings scoreless, never allowing multiple base runners in an inning to pick up the win and improve to 2-1.
Seattle’s offense went mostly quiet after the run-scoring explosion, but Nelson Cruz added to the lead in the eighth, blasting a solo homer to right-center.
Every run was needed after Arquimedes Caminero turned the top of the ninth into an adventure. Caminero gave up four runs and turned a rout into a situation where two more relievers had to be used, including Diaz, the team’s closer.
In a perfect example of baseball’s poetry and cruelty, Trout stepped to the plate with two runners on base and as the potential-tying run. Diaz pitched him carefully, coaxing a fly out to center to end the game for his 12th save.
“We got him out and got the save,” Servais said. “We won the game. It’s huge. We are going to smile about it.”