Manny Acta never hesitated even when he saw that Kyle Lewis did, and that’s a main reason why the Mariners picked up a 2-1 victory over the Angels on Sunday afternoon in Anaheim.
Lewis started the 10th inning at second base as the automatic base runner, per the extra-innings rule for the 2020 season. With one out, Tim Lopes hit a liner to left field. Lewis paused to make sure it wouldn’t be caught and then sprinted toward third. While most people expected him to be held there, Acta, the Mariners’ third-base coach, kept waving Lewis home.
Well, Angels left fielder Brian Goodwin was flat-footed when he fielded the ball and didn’t seem to think Lewis would test him. It was a perfect read and decision by Acta.
Goodwin made a poor throw to the relay man and Lewis dove in headfirst for the game’s go-ahead run.
“It was a huge, huge play,” Seattle manager Scott Servais said in a postgame video conference. “I give Manny a ton of credit. In a game like today, you just aren’t going to string a lot of hits together and you have to take a chance there. K-Lew didn’t get a very good read and didn’t get a very good round at third base, but he can run and he made up the difference.”
Of course, the game wasn’t finished on that play. The Mariners still needed to get three outs from their bullpen with a runner on second.
Servais called on rookie right-hander Yohan Ramirez to pitch in his first save situation. The hard-throwing Rule 5 draft choice pitched a scoreless bottom of the inning, that included an intentional walk of Mike Trout, to secure the Mariners’ victory and earn his first MLB save.
“Just looking at the expressions on his face, I thought his heartbeat was slower today than I’ve seen at any point all year,” Servais said. “I thought he looked calm when he was coming set, he’s checking the runner on second, he was taking a deep breath and had nice rhythm, even more so than what we’ve seen in situations where he’s been pitching when we’ve been down a few runs. It’s a really good sign.”
Rookie right-hander Justin Dunn delivered a second consecutive strong outing for Seattle but didn’t figure into the decision. Dunn pitched six shutout innings, allowing just one hit with four walks (one intentional) and six strikeouts. Over his past two starts, he’s thrown 12 scoreless innings while allowing two hits with five walks and 12 strikeouts.
It wasn’t an easy six scoreless for Dunn. He ran into trouble in the first inning, issuing walks to Shohei Ohtani and Anthony Rendon. But he came back to get Goodwin to pop out on a change-up to end the inning.
But it was the sixth that made the start a success. Dunn issued a leadoff walk and allowed a stolen base to Luis Rengifo. With one out and first base open, the Mariners intentionally walked Trout. During a battle of an at-bat with Rendon, Dunn appeared to have picked off Rengifo at second base. But Dee Gordon dropped the ball on the tag. Dunn maintained his composure and struck out Rendon with a slider in the dirt.
“Honestly, I didn’t think he was going to swing when it came out of my hand,” Dunn said in a video conference call. “It came out of my hand down. As soon as I let it go my immediate thought process was we’re gonna go back to the same pitch but bring it back up a little bit in the zone and see if we can’t get a swing. To get a swing like that on a hitter like that was good to see.”
Showing faith in his starter and wanting to provide another leverage situation for his rookie starter, Servais left Dunn in the game with his pitch count building to face the left-handed hitting Goodwin instead of going to lefty Antony Misiewicz, who was warming in the bullpen.
Dunn rewarded Servais by getting Goodwin to pop out to third baseman Sam Haggerty to end the inning.
“Certainly with where we’re at this year, you want to give those kids an opportunity to find out — can they get through,” Servais said. “He was throwing the ball great. So today was a day to let him go. Again, another opportunity for growth and hopefully he’ll build confidence off of that.”
The Mariners set Dunn up for the victory in the top of the seventh, finally getting to Angels starter Griffin Canning. Lewis smashed a 93-mph fastball into the empty seats deep in right-center for his eight homer of the season. Lewis’ solo blast was Canning’s only real blemish in his outing. He pitched eight innings, allowing the one run on four hits with a walk and seven strikeouts.
“He hasn’t been real happy with the way he’s been swinging the bat the last couple of days,” Servais said of Lewis. “He made a comment before the game started, ‘I got one in me today, Skip’. And he did have one in him today. It was a big one.”
The Mariners’ lead was short-lived, however.
Misiewicz entered the game and promptly gave up a leadoff double to Albert Pujols. He came back to retire the next two hitters, but with two outs Andrelton Simmons hit a soft line-drive single to right field. Given Pujols’ speed, or more correctly complete lack of it, right fielder Jake Fraley was going to have a play at the plate with Pujols trying to score from second. But Fraley misplayed the ball on the hop and never got to make a throw home on what was the tying run.
Seattle got scoreless if not clean relief work from the bullpen. Yoshihisa Hirano pitched a scoreless eighth despite allowing two base runners while Taylor Williams managed a scoreless frame despite walking a hitter with two outs and throwing a pair of wild pitches to advance the runner to third.