The Mariners improved to 8-0 in extra-inning games as they rallied in the 10th to put away the Orioles and complete their first-ever four-game sweep at Camden Yards.
BALTIMORE — Mariners manager Scott Servais was thrilled to have Dee Gordon lead off the 10th inning in a tie game with the Baltimore Orioles.
Gordon is not the club’s leading hitter and is not a home run threat. He’d already struck out twice. But the speedster makes things happen — and Servais knows it.
“In the 10th inning, I’m joking with Dee,” said Servais. “Dig down deep right here. And sure enough he gets on base and starts all the havoc out there.”
Gordon beat out an infield single to start the 10th. Jean Segura followed with a single and when center fielder Colby Rasmus bobbles the ball — ever so briefly — Gordon flies around the bases to score.
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The Mariners went on to beat the Orioles 4-2 on Thursday to complete their first-ever four-game sweep in Baltimore. A 5-5 trip seemed an impossible task since the Mariners arrived in town having lost all three to the Yankees and two of three to the Red Sox.
“Really nice comeback to a shaky start to this road trip,” said Servais. “To come in here, you’re hoping to get back on track win the series. But to win all four? It’s hard to sweep anybody four games. Especially on the road. It says a lot about our guys.”
The Mariners arrived in Baltimore having lost six of seven overall but now will face Kansas City on Friday to open their nine-game homestand at Safeco Field on a roll.
The Mariners had a lot of heroes on Thursday. Nelson Cruz, who sat out the last two games of the series with lower back pain, had three hits — including his 21st homer — and three RBI. With a battered bullpen, the team needed a quality start from Mike Leake and got it.
Right-hander Juan Nicasio recorded his first save of the season and eighth of his career. James Pazos (2-1) pitched a scoreless ninth and got the win.
But Gordon’s 10th-inning heroics triggered the victory. Third-base coach Scott Brosius was furiously waving him to third and Gordon was all-too-happy to oblige.
“I was trying to make Bros’ job as easy as possible and score from first,” said Gordon. “I didn’t know if he (Rasmus) cut the ball off or not. I just figured on Bros the whole time. So that was a good call on his part.”
Gordon, whose speed clearly worried Orioles reliever Miguel Castro (2-4), said he predicted Segura’s hit.
“After I made the pitcher step off, I actually told their first baseman (Chris Davis) he’s going to throw him another heater and he’s going to hit a double. And it happened. So, that’s pretty cool.”
Segura was credited with a single, having advanced on the throw to the plate hoping to get Gordon. One batter later, Cruz lined a single to left, scoring Segura and the Mariners had effectively secured their eighth extra-inning victory in as many tries.
Cruz played down his hitting heroics, preferring to praise his teammates.
“When we need a hit with runners on base, Gordon and Segura have been doing it all year long,” he said.
Orioles manager Buck Showalter said 95 percent of major-leaguers do not beat out Gordon’s 10th-inning infield single. He also said Rasmus’ error was directly due to Gordon’s speed rounding second.
“Guys like Gordon put such pressure on you because you know any little bobble — anything — he’s going to take another base,” he said. “That’s why they’re having a good year and winning some games, because of things like that. It’s hard to duplicate that.”
Cruz opened the scoring by hitting a two-run homer in the fourth, the ball eluding the glove of leaping right fielder Danny Valencia by inches. It marked the 20th time he’s gone deep in just 111 games at Camden Yards.
Baltimore trimmed the lead to 2-1 in the bottom of the inning when Manny Machado, who leads AL shortstops in All-Star voting but will likely be traded by the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline, crushed a Leake delivery into the left-field stands.
Two batters later, Davis, who entered the game with a .152 batting average, belted a solo shot to left-center to even the score at 2-2.
Servais said he was excited about his team’s ability to shake off the series losses to the Yankees and Red Sox and beat the Orioles on a steamy day in Baltimore.
“Dig-down deep, gut-check type of game,” he said.