Shawn O’Malley hit a two-run single in the eighth inning to break a 4-4 tie tie and snap a six-game losing streak
In one swing of the bat, Shawn O’Malley led his current team to a win and helped his former team move a step closer to the playoffs.
O’Malley’s two-run single in the bottom of the eighth off Astros reliever Pat Neshek broke a 4-4 tie and made the difference in the Mariners’ 6-4 win over Houston on Tuesday night at Safeco Field.
The win snapped Seattle’s six-game losing streak. It was also a gut-punch loss to the Astros, who lost their lead in the second wild-card. And the team that picked up O’Malley last season — the Los Angeles Angels — also reaped the benefits. With their 8-1 win in Oakland, the Angels took over the lead in the second wild-card by a half game over the Astros.
With his old and now new general manager Jerry Dipoto watching, O’Malley sat on a 2-2 slider and dumped a line drive into shallow left-center to score Seth Smith and Mark Trumbo.
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“I was just looking for a ball up in the zone that I could handle,” O’Malley said. “Luckily I was able to get it done.”
To add to Houston’s frustration, all of the runners and runs came with two outs. Astros manager A.J. Hinch used Will Harris to get the first out of the inning on a ground ball from Nelson Cruz. Hinch brought in lefty Oliver Perez, who retired Robinson Cano, but couldn’t put Smith away. The veteran outfielder blooped a single into right field with a one-handed swing on a 2-2 count to start the rally.
“I kind of got fooled on a breaking ball and wanted to touch it and was able to have it fall in,” Smith said. “Baseball’s crazy. You hit balls hard and you’re out and you hit balls like that and you get hits.”
Trumbo followed with a single and Franklin Gutierrez a walk to load the bases for O’Malley.
“Those were great at-bats,” manager Lloyd McClendon said. “(Neshek) is really tough on righties.”
Making a spot start on three days’ rest, Vidal Nuno gave the Mariners as much as they could hope for, pitching five innings and allowing three runs on six hits with no walks and five strikeouts.
It was a serviceable outing, given the circumstances.
The Mariners even provided some offense, scoring two runs in the first inning against starter Mike Fiers on sacrifice flies from Cano and Cruz.
Later in the game, with the Mariners trailing 4-2, Cano crushed his 20th homer of the season, a line drive over the wall in right-center. The two-run blast tied the score at 4 in the sixth inning.
By reaching the 20-homer plateau, Cano became just the eighth major-league second baseman to hit 20 or more home runs in at least six big-league seasons. Jeff Kent has the most with 12.
Closer Tom Wilhelmsen picked up the win in relief, pitching the final 12/3 innings to improve to 2-2 on the season.
Paxton prepares for Fall League
Manager Lloyd McClendon confirmed on Tuesday afternoon that James Paxton will not make another start this season due to the fingernail issue on his throwing hand. The Mariners have decided to shut him down, and he’ll begin preparing to pitch in the Arizona Fall League, which begins on Oct. 13.
“Paxton probably will not pitch anymore the rest of the season,” McClendon said.
It was a lost season for the left-hander. He made just 13 starts the entire season, going 3-4 with a 3.90 ERA. He pitched a total of 67 innings at the big-league level.
There was some hope Paxton might be able to start on Wednesday, but he was unable to throw since re-tearing the nail. The Mariners decided to have him begin preparing for the fall league instead. That includes throwing for the first time on Wednesday.
To protect the nail and keep it locked down to prevent further problems, the Mariners applied a healthy amount of glue to it.
Paxton will likely make five or six five-inning starts in the fall league. That will give him close to 100 innings pitched this season. The original goal was to use the fall league and final month of the season to get him to 130. But that’s not happening.
Could he go to winter ball in Venezuela or the Dominican Republic to get more innings after the fall league?
“We’ll see how he comes out of the fall league,” McClendon said.