PHOENIX – Can one game encapsulate all that Jarred Kelenic has been through in a rookie season that has been tantalizing at times, disappointing at others and largely unfulfilling for all involved?
Well, he certainly offered the full array in the Mariners’ 6-5 victory in 10 innings over the Diamondbacks on Friday night at Chase Field.
Kelenic’s well-placed, if not completely intended, looping fly ball to shallow left field that landed on the foul line in the top of the 10th inning scored Kyle Seager with the winning run.
Right-hander Yohan Ramirez pitched 1-2-3 bottom of the 10th to secure the victory and earn his second save of the season.
“Just another one-run game, that’s what we do,” Seattle manager Scott Servais said. “My gut says every game we play the rest of the year is going to be a one-run game. I don’t expect anything different in the one-run games.”
As one of the Mariners’ most-heralded prospects and with spring-training controversy surrounding his service time, much was expected from Kelenic when he was called up in early May after only of a handful of games at the Class AAA. He struggled and was sent down. His return to the big leagues after the All-Star break has been anything but stable.
Games like Friday are reminders of his talent, his inexperience and the lessons learned in these situations.
“I think it’s great to be honest with you just because it’s getting me ready for years to come in my career,” he said. “And if I’m accustomed to situations like this, it can only help me.”
Besides the game-winning hit, there was a full menu of Kelenic, featuring:
— A pop up to right field with two outs and the bases loaded on a hanging cutter in the first inning that left him shaking his head.
— A misplay on a drive off the bat of Nick Ahmed to deep right-center that led to a run in the fourth inning.
“I gotta make that play,” he said. “There’s no two ways about it. I take full ownership on that. I was playing in, and that ball was hit really well. And I just felt like I was running forever after that ball. If you look at the video, as I go to catch it, I go to like run into the wall, but the wall wasn’t there. I still have like five more feet. And that’s on me. I gotta be better there.”
— Atonement for that mistake with a laser beam of a two-run homer to deep right-center that gave Seattle a 5-1 lead in the sixth inning off Madison Bumgarner.
“I thought I was seeing him pretty well, considering he’s such a crossfire guy,” Kelenic said. “I was really just looking for something in … and I got what I was looking for.”
— A swinging strikeout against right-hander J.B Wendleken that led to Kelenic spiking and breaking his bat in frustration.
With the victory, the Mariners improved to 73-62, but failed to gain ground on the Red Sox (78-59), who defeated Cleveland 8-5. Seattle trails Boston by four games in the wild-card standings. The Mariners did pick up a game on the A’s (74-61), who lost 11-10 in a crazy game to Toronto.
Of course, Kelenic might not have had to play the hero if not for a never-ending bottom of the seventh inning.
Up 5-1, Seattle was cruising to what seemed like an easy and expected victory over hapless Arizona, which has the worst record in the National League.
With a little extra life on his fastball and crispness in his pitches, Seattle starter Tyler Anderson rolled through the first six innings, working 1-2-3 innings in five of them. His only run allowed came in the fourth inning when that misplayed ball by Kelenic led to a “triple.”
Servais let Anderson start the seventh. He gave up back-to-back doubles to Christian Walker and Andrew Young to start the problems. Sean Doolittle was brought in to replace Anderson. He immediately gave up a run-scoring single, got a fly ball out and then walked a batter. The inning might have been over if Ty France could’ve turned a double play on a hard ground ball from pinch hitter Pavin Smith, but he couldn’t field it cleanly and had to settle for an out first base.
With two outs and runners on second and third, Servais went to his best reliever – Paul Sewald – to face right-handed leadoff hitter Ahmed with the ultra-dangerous Ketel Marte in the on-deck circle.
After getting a swing and a miss on an elevated fastball, Sewald tried to replicate it on the inside corner. Ahmed was ready for it, pulling it through the left side to score both runners and tie the game at 5-5.
With minimal command of his slider, Sewald walked the next two batters. He ran the count full on Walker, who came to the plate for the second time in the inning. But on Sewald’s eight slider of his outing, he finally got one in the strike zone, getting a swinging strike three to end the interminable inning.
Seattle grabbed a 1-0 lead in the top of the first against Bumgarner on a bases-loaded walk. But it felt like the Mariners should’ve scored more considering J.P. Crawford led off with a single and Mitch Haniger followed with a single.
Anderson cruised through the first three innings, retiring the first nine hitters he faced.
The Mariners retook the lead in the top of the fifth. Crawford worked a leadoff walk and Haniger, facing the team that traded him to Seattle, was gifted an 0-2 cutter over the middle of the plate. He jumped on the mistake pitch, launching his 30th homer of the season. The two-run blast gave Seattle a 3-1 lead.