Just a day earlier, Tim Lopes was relegated to the purgatory that is the alternate training site in Tacoma. With the scheduled intrasquad scrimmage scuttled due to poor air conditions and on-field activities limited or cancelled, he was just happy to get 10 minutes of hitting in the cage Sunday morning.
Meanwhile in Arizona, Kyle Lewis wasn’t in the starting lineup for the first time since Aug. 6 — a span 31 games. The hope was that a “day off” might help recharge him and break him from a two-week slump where he had a .130/.245/.261 slash line* with just six hits in 46 at-bats, two homers, three RBI, seven walks and 17 strikeouts.
Monday, playing through the hazy smoke-filled air of T-Mobile Park, the duo helped pull the Mariners back from what seemed like a certain defeat — a five-run deficit in the fourth inning of seven-inning opening game of a doubleheader against Oakland. The Mariners won that game 6-5 before losing the second game 9-0.
Called up as the 29th player only for the doubleheader and to face the A’s two scheduled left-handed starting pitchers, Lopes didn’t let inactivity hinder him, smacking three doubles in three plate appearances, including the game-tying double against right-hander Joakim Soria in the sixth inning.
“I last faced pitchers maybe three or four days ago, but that’s been about it,” Lopes said in a postgame video conference. “It was more of a see-ball, hit-it approach.”
Meanwhile, Lewis smoked a two-run homer in the fifth inning to bring Seattle within a run. An inning later, he took a four-pitch walk with the bases loaded to force the go-ahead run across home plate. Working his third game in three days, which is something he has never done before in his MLB career, veteran right-hander Yoshihisa Hirano pitched a scoreless seventh to secure Seattle’s stunning come-from-behind victory.
Given the circumstances, including an unexpected opportunity at a spot in the expanded postseason, it was Seattle’s best victory of the season.
“Heck of a comeback,” Seattle manager Scott Servais said in a postgame video call. “It was awesome to watch against a very good team and a very good starting pitcher. Luckily enough, we were able to get him out of there and made some really good swings against their bullpen.”
The Lewis at-bat was indicative of his maturity. Despite hitting a two-run homer an inning earlier, he wouldn’t get greedy when he stepped to the plate with the bases loaded in the sixth. Lewis knew Soria had just walked the previous two hitters to load the bases and refused to chase anything out of the zone.
“You’ve heard me say often that Kyle Lewis stays in the moment and that’s a prime example what I’m talking about,” Servais said. “Oftentimes players get ahead of themselves there. They can already see the headline — the three-run double or the big homer. Kyle doesn’t do that, he really doesn’t. I know people don’t quite understand what I’m talking about, but he stays in the moment.”
The rally helped offset an unexpected and frustrating start from staff ace Marco Gonzales, who just didn’t have his typical command. A rare walk to the first batter he faced — Marcus Semien — might have been an indicator. Gonzales came into the game with just four walks in 50 2/3 innings this season.
“Yeah, one walk and everybody panics,” Gonzales joked in a postgame video call. “Obviously, I didn’t have my best stuff. The cutter is a huge weapon for me and I was struggling to find the finish on it. So I battled with what I had.”
Gonzales pitched six innings, allowing five runs on six hits with a walk and seven strikeouts while giving up two homers, but improved to 6-2. It was the most runs Gonzales allowed in a start this season and only the second time he allowed multiple homers in an outing.
When Semien crushed a three-run homer off Gonzales in a four-run fourth inning, the Mariners seemed destined for defeat, down 5-0.
“After I gave up the home run to Semien, I thought, ‘From here on out it’s going to be zeros and let’s see if the boys can come back and get a W,'” Gonzales said.
“The boys” did just that, slowly chipping away at the lead and left-handed starter Jesus Luzardo, who looked dominant for the first 3 2/3 innings, allowing just two hits with seven strikeouts.
With two outs in the fourth, Luis Torrens hit a solo homer to right to get Seattle its first runs. It was Torrens’ first homer for the Mariners since being acquired from the Padres at the trade deadline.
In the fifth, Jose Marmolejos led off with a line-drive homer that trimmed the lead to 5-2. It was his sixth homer of the season, giving him hits in six consecutive games and 14 of his past 15 games. During that time, he’s batting .360 (18 for 50) with four doubles, five homers, 15 RBI and five walks.
Lopes followed with his second double of the game and jogged home when Lewis crushed a first-pitch fastball from Luzardo into the seats in deep right-center for a two-run blast. It was Lewis’ 10th homer of the season.
Game 2: A’s 9, Mariners 0
There would be no comeback possible in this game. The Mariners’ bullpen, the worst in baseball, needed to cover seven innings without three of its best relievers — Hirano, Kendall Graveman and Anthony Misiewicz — available due to usage.
And not even Lewis’ unbelievable, grand-slam robbing catch to end the first inning could stop the inevitable, only prolong it.
The A’s roughed up the Mariners’ trio of long relievers — Jimmy Yacabonis, who started the game, Seth Frankoff and Brady Lail. Oakland banged out nine runs on 11 hits, including two homers to salvage a split in the doubleheader.
Lewis’ leaping grab on Ramon Laureano’s deep drive to center saved the struggling Yacabonis, who hit a batter and walked two more in the first inning.
With Yacabonis’ pitch count up over 40, Frankoff came in with one out in the second inning. He worked out of an inherited mess, but then allowed five runs in the third inning to let the shortened game get out of hand.
Lail gave up three runs in four innings of work, including a two-run homer to local product Jake Lamb, who joined the A’s earlier in the day.
A’s starter Mike Minor shut down Seattle, pitching a seven-inning shutout while allowing two hits with a two walks and eight strikeouts.