HOUSTON — In desperate need of a victory to stay in the wild-card race, perhaps it was fitting that the Mariners finished the season series against a team they struggle with in a place where they have rarely found success.
Going into the top of the ninth inning, having stranded a small village of runners on the bases over the first eight innings — 12 to be exact — the Mariners came through with the clutch hit and tack-on runs necessary to exorcise the ghosts from so many squandered leads and past losses for an 8-5 victory over Houston.
Jose Marmolejos’ shift-beating two-run single up the middle broke a 4-4 tie to give the Mariners the lead. J.P. Crawford punctuated the inning with a two-run homer into the right-field seats to make sure Seattle kept it.
Paul Sewald returned to the mound in the bottom of the ninth after his struggles less than 24 hours before. He gave up a solo homer to Alex Bregman to start the inning but retired the next three hitters in order
As his players lined up for celebratory postgame handshakes on the infield of Minute Maid Park, which is far from a common occurrence, manager Scott Servais thought of his favorite TV show and his team’s ability to shrug off failure and defeat from the days before, including Tuesday night’s 5-4 walk-off loss in extra innings.
“I want to open this one today with something from everybody’s favorite coach,” Servais said. “We have a lot of goldfish, guys with very short memories. So for all you ‘Ted Lasso’ fans out there, that’s what came into my mind today.”
It definitely helps to have a short memory when it comes to playing at Minute Maid. It was Seattle’s third win at Minute Maid Park this season and fourth over the past three seasons. Oddly, all three wins this season have come in a series finale when the Mariners were trying to avoid being swept.
“When we got after it in the first inning, you never would have known we were in a tough game last night and weren’t able to get it done,” Servais said. “The will to win that this team has is so unique. I’ve been on a lot of teams — coached a lot, played on a lot — I don’t know if I’ve been on a team that is just so driven to win as this team is. I don’t know how we do it some days, but we find a way.”
The Mariners were trending toward defeat after scoring two runs in the first inning off a two-run double by Abraham Toro and failing to add any more despite base runners in every inning.
Down 4-2 in the seventh, Jarred Kelenic smacked a two-run double off the wall in deep left-center on a first-pitch curveball from Phil Maton to tie the game.
“I had a pretty good educated guess on that one,” Kelenic said about looking for a first-pitch breaking ball.
Some of that education was provided by hitting coach Tim Laker.
“Again, experience helps, and Jarred doesn’t have a lot of it,” Servais said. “He’s gaining it quickly. But Jarred said, ‘I think he’s gonna maybe try to sneak a fastball by me.’ And Laker said: ‘Are you crazy? You’ve swung at every curveball in the dirt today. He’s not gonna throw fastball first pitch.’ So give Jarred credit, he got up there, slowed it down and got a pitch up in the strike zone. It was a curveball and put a good swing on it.”
With the scored tied at 4-4 in the ninth, Luis Torrens hit a one-out single to center and Kelenic worked a walk. Both runners moved up on a wayward pitch.
With the infield shifted for Marmolejos to pull it to the right side, Pressley left a fastball off the outside corner that was punched through a massive hole up the middle.
“We get that a lot, ‘Oh, they’re doing the shift just hit it the other way,’ but sometimes it has to do more how they’re pitching you,” Marmolejos said. “It’s not that easy. I was looking for a pitch out and over and got it.”
It was, he said, “A swing not for me, but for the team.”
Dating back to Sept. 20, 2020, and spanning three different teams, Mariners starter Tyler Anderson had pitched a minimum of five innings in 27 straight starts entering Wednesday’s game.
That streak ended when Anderson — who had already allowed a cheap solo homer to Jose Altuve to start the inning — walked Kyle Tucker to load the bases with two outs in the fifth. With right-hander Jake Meyers coming to the plate and Anderson at 80 pitches, Servais went to his bullpen.
Anderson handed the ball to Servais and stalked off the mound, sharing his displeasure about the strike zone with home plate umpire Gabe Morales.
Right-hander Casey Sadler got Meyers to fly out to center to end the threat.
Anderson’s final line: 4 2/3 innings pitched, four runs allowed on seven hits with three walks and four strikeouts.
The four runs were the most he’d allowed in an outing since joining the Mariners.