DETROIT — If only they could play the Tigers more than six or seven times in a season. After a one-night outlier of no offense and a defeat, the Mariners finalized a year’s worth of supremacy over the worst team in baseball with yet another win in the last game of the season series.
Seattle’s offense, which has been largely nonexistent against quality teams with good pitching or even decent teams with mediocre pitching for the better part of the past four weeks, continued to excel against a pitching staff with the third-worst earned-run average in baseball at 5.20.
The Mariners pounded a total of 14 hits and rolled to an easy 7-2 victory Thursday in a game where they could have had more runs, going 5 for 15 with runners in scoring position while stranding nine runners on base and making three outs on the base paths.
“We did some nice things once we got rolling, but it took us a little while to get rolling,” manager Scott Servais said. “It was nice to win the series. We haven’t had a lot of series wins lately. We made a few mistakes today — a few in the outfield, we ran into three outs on the bases, but the offense covers up those things when you score runs.”
While Servais would never say it, it also helped that Seattle was playing a team with less talent and experience and has performed worse. If you think the Mariners have been bad this season, well, they are significantly better than the Tigers. Detroit lost 98 games last season, will lose more this season and won’t be much better next season.
Yes, there are some bad teams in the American League. Seattle’s 50-72 record is the fifth-worst record in MLB — four of those five teams are in the AL. In the race to 100 losses, the Tigers will easily beat the Mariners to the century mark along with the Orioles and Royals. But Seattle, which is on pace to lose 96 games, could still get there. That mythical 13-2 start may have prevented it. The Mariners next travel north to face the Toronto Blue Jays, who have won 11 of their past 17 games to move slightly ahead of the M’s with a 51-73 record.
Seattle finished the season with a 6-1 record against the Tigers, who fell to 36-82 and are on pace for just 49 wins this season in a division that features the White Sox (54-65) and Royals (43-78). The Mariners outscored Detroit 44-18 in the seven games, posting a .289/.376/.528 slash line (batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage) with 15 doubles, two triples, 12 homers, 44 RBI and seven stolen bases while averaging 6.3 runs per game.
Kyle Seager continued his torrid run at the plate Thursday, tallying two hits and driving in three of the seven runs and continued to credit hitting coach Tim Laker. Seager has hits in 19 of his past 20 games. In those 20 games, he has a .375/.444/.792 slash line with four doubles, a triple, eight homers and 19 RBI.
“It’s the work with Laker,” Seager said. “He’s really good. I know I’ve said it before. He’s got me in better positions.”
Austin Nola and Mallex Smith had three hits each. Of the 10 players who had plate appearances in the game, only Daniel Vogelbach and Keon Broxton were held without hits.
After struggling to do much against Tigers starter Shane Turnbull in the first two innings, striking out six times, the Mariners broke through in the third inning. Seager gave the Mariners a lead they would never relinquish, smacking a two-out double to left field that hopped over the wall and scored two runs.
Opposite-field power wasn’t possible the past few seasons because Seager simply didn’t have the capability to make that swing.
“Now if I catch it a little deeper, I’m actually able to hit it with authority that way,” he said. “I’ve had some line drives that way that I’ve been happy with. I wasn’t physically able to separate like I needed to. I wasn’t able to get into the ground the way I needed to. I didn’t have the thoracic mobility or ankle mobility needed. I got too tight. That’s the whole point of this winter. Right now, it’s definitely working. I’m able to hit the ball the other way more effectively.”
The Mariners tacked on another run when Nola collected his second of three hits in the game, a single to left to score Seager.
The Tigers got two of those runs back in the top of the fourth off Mariners bulk pitcher Tommy Milone. Victor Reyes’ hard ground ball to right-center got under Smith’s glove and went for a triple to start the inning.
“I definitely should have cut that off,” Smith said.
Reyes scored immediately on a sac fly from Dawel Lugo. Miguel Cabrera followed with a solo homer to left — just his ninth homer in an injury-filled season — to cut the lead to 3-2.
But Seattle eventually tacked on enough runs to make it comfortable, adding two in the seventh on Dylan Moore’s solo homer to start the inning and Omar Narvaez’s RBI single to center.
Smith add an RBI single in the eighth while Seager drove in his third run of the game with a single in the ninth.
Milone (2-7) got the win in relief, pitching four innings and allowing the two runs on six hits with no walks and three strikeouts. He found some movement to his changeup — his best pitch — that was missing in his previous outing.”
“It felt a lot better,” he said. “Just having a little bit of depth to it makes a big difference. The one to Cabrera was in an OK spot, but it was kind of flat and hanging out there. He’s a strong guy and he got the barrel on it. But overall, I felt like I threw some good pitches.”