Less than 24 hours earlier, Mariners manager Scott Servais could only shake his head at the myriad line drives and deep flyouts that found their way into the gloves of the Arizona Diamondbacks. When 14 balls are put into play with exit velocities of 94 mph or higher and only three result in hits, a one-run loss will eat at your guts and play tricks with your mind.
But the baseball gods are fair-minded entities, and Servais and the Mariners were justly rewarded for the many hard-hit balls Saturday night in a 7-3 drubbing of the D-backs. Seattle put 14 balls into play with exit velocities over 95 mph and seven of them went for hits, with six of them scoring runs.
“The key number is 14,” Servais said in a postgame video call. “We are hitting the ball hard up and down the lineup. It’s not just one guy. It’s a number of guys chipping in. That’s what it’s going to take. We’ve relied really heavily on the Kyles — it’s been Lewis and Seager. Everybody’s chipping in, and that’s what it’s going to take to win these games.”
With the win, the Mariners snapped a three-game losing streak and improved to 20-25. For about 20 minutes, it appeared the Mariners might move within 1 1/2 games of the Astros for second place in the American League West. But Houston scored five runs in the top of the ninth off Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen to erase a 5-2 deficit and pick up a 7-5 win.
The Mariners roughed up right-hander Zac Gallen from the first pitch of the game, handing him his worst start of his career, scoring seven runs off him in five innings on seven hits with five walks. Coming into the game, Gallen had a 2.29 ERA in nine starts with 60 strikeouts and 17 walks in 55 innings pitched.
Ty France continued to make a solid first impression since joining the Mariners, homering for the second straight game. With one out, he sat on a hanging curveball from Gallen and crushed it into the seats in left-center for a 1-0 lead. It was his first of three hits on the night.
After striking out Lewis for the second out of the inning, Gallen walked Seager and gave up a run-scoring double to the left-center wall to Jose Marmolejos that made it 2-0. With Gallen still scuffling, Evan White worked a walk after falling behind 0-2 in the count and Luis Torrens followed with a two-run double to left.
“I think for us we just needed to be stubborn off him,” France said in a postgame video call. “He likes to nibble, trying to get those corner calls. The more stubborn we were off him, the harder it was for him. We just kind of shrank our zone to get something we could do some damage with and just kind of lay off the other stuff.”
The Mariners continued to grind out at-bats against Gallen. Seager worked a bases-loaded walk in the second inning that made it 5-0. They were relentless in controlling the zone and not helping him out.
“Credit our hitting coaches, talking with our guys, and coming up with a plan,” Servais said. “It’s one thing if just one or two guys want to carry out the plan, but when you get eight or nine guys that are willing to buy into it, then it becomes nine versus one, and we like those odds.”
And even when Arizona got two runs back in the fourth inning, Marmolejos answered with a two-run missile to right field that made it 7-2. It was his fifth homer of the season.
Given plenty of run support, the Mariners got another solid start from lefty Justus Sheffield, who has become the rotation’s second-best starter behind Marco Gonzales.
Sheffield pitched seven innings, allowing two runs on five hits with three walks and seven strikeouts to improve to 3-3. It was his sixth quality start (six innings-plus pitched, three runs or fewer allowed) in his past seven outings. Over that span, he has a 2.95 ERA with 35 strikeouts and 10 walks in 36 2/3 innings.
Even more impressive was Sheffield’s fastball life and velocity, which was his best all season.
“It was the liveliest we’ve seen from him all season,” Servais said. “Guys like Sheff that are very athletic and they can get going really quickly, but when their timing is right it’s coming out hot. It blew me away the quality of fastball he had tonight.”
After averaging around 91-92 mph this season with his two-seam fastball, Sheffield was consistently hitting 95 mph with plus movement.
“It’s about time,” he said in a postgame video conference. “I’ve wondered where and when it was gonna come around. That’s great. I don’t think it’s anything mechanical or anything like that. I think it’s just kind of the more games we get into the season, you kind of get on a roll and your arm strength builds.”
Sheffield was still miffed about the fourth inning when he loaded the bases on two singles and a walk and later gave up two runs.
“I was definitely upset just because I had a few walks in that inning,” he said. “They got some knocks off the end of the bat that fell. If I can limit those walks, then maybe they don’t score those runs.”
Editor’s note: The Times declined to send reporter Ryan Divish to Phoenix for this game because of COVID-19 safety concerns.