For most of the night, well, at least 7½ innings, the Mariners seemed destined for yet another frustrating loss where they looked tepid at the plate, absent on the bases and diminished on the scoreboard.
With one of the worst offenses in baseball in multiple categories and several players struggling to hit their weight or even their childhood weight, it’s been a frustrating and far too common occurrence this season. And everything was trending toward disappointment if not disaster.
But that all changed in the bottom of the eighth inning when the Orioles brought in 26-year-old Travis Lakins Sr., not Jr., with the score tied.
Lakins gave up a leadoff single to Sam Haggerty, walked Mitch Haniger and Ty France to load the bases.
Orioles manager Brandon Hyde called on lefty Tanner Scott to try and clean up Lakins’ mess with minimal damage.
It didn’t happen.
Kyle Seager, who had homered earlier in the game, hit a hard line drive to center that allowed Haggerty to tag up and score for the go-ahead run. Not satisfied with a one-run lead, Kyle Lewis hammered a 99-mph fastball from Scott over the wall in deep right-center for a three-run homer and some much-needed insurance for a highly-worked bullpen in what was a 5-2 victory over Baltimore.
“I was hyped,” Lewis said of the emotion he displayed as he circled the bases. “We’ve been playing hard and trying to get big hits, and the offense, we’ve been trying to get going. So it was cool to just provide some energy and definitely wanted to enjoy that one, being able to put some runs on the board late in the game.”
With the win, Seattle improved to 17-14 and will try to win the three-game series on Wednesday afternoon to wrap up the homestand.
The Mariners are now 14-5 when scoring four runs or more vs. 3-9 when scoring three runs or fewer.
The win ended on a bad note when right-hander Keynan Middleton exited the game after facing one batter in the ninth inning with an injury. With a 5-1 lead and Kendall Graveman and Rafael Montero having already thrown in the game, Middleton entered to close out the win.
Instead, he threw just four pitches – all balls with decreased velocity and not close to the strike zone – to Rio Ruiz. Manager Scott Servais came to the mound with an athletic trainer. After a brief conversation, Middleton left with the trainer.
Servais said after the game that Middleton was diagnosed with a biceps strain and will undergo more tests. It’s likely going to force him to the injured list and the Mariners will call up a reliever in the morning.
“The doctor didn’t think the initial look was too serious,” Servais said. “(Middleton) said it was just fatigue. But certainly from the first pitch, I was like, ‘this doesn’t look right.'”
Right-hander Robert Dugger came in to finish out the game. But it didn’t come without drama. Dugger allowed Middleton’s run to score and found himself with two outs and runners on the corners and the tying run at the plate in D.J. Stewart. But Dugger regrouped to strike out Stewart swinging to end the game.
“I give him a ton of credit coming into that spot,” Servais said. “Thankful we had a little bit of a cushion. That’s a big spot for a young player. Tip my hat to him. We needed it. And he stepped up.”
Seattle got a solid if not completely efficient start from right-hander Justin Dunn, who worked 5 1/3 innings, allowing one run on three hits with four walks and six strikeouts.
“It was a gutty performance,” Servais said.
As he has done so often in his young career, Dunn put runners on base and found ways to leave them there. From walking the first batter of the game and retiring the next three hitters to loading the bases with one out in the second inning and finding a way to escape unscathed.
In his career, Dunn has made 19 starts and thrown 78 innings while allowing 52 hits, issuing 57 walks and striking out 65 batters.
It doesn’t seem sustainable for success, but he’s made it work more often than not.
“The fastball command really wasn’t there today,” he said. “Curveball was on and was able to help me get through it. But something was off all night and I kind of just went into compete mode, especially after yesterday, having a bullpen day. I knew that coming into this game, I wanted to get at least six or seven and try to save those guys back there.”
The Mariners grabbed a 1-0 lead in the fourth inning against Baltimore starter Jorge Lopez when Seager crushed a 96-mph fastball over the wall in right field for a solo homer. Seager’s fifth homer of the season had 111-mph exit velocity and traveled 383 feet.
But the lead was short-lived when the Orioles finally scored their first run against Dunn in the top of the fifth despite having a steady parade of runners on the bases in the early innings.
With one out, Ruiz, batting in the No. 9 spot, ambushed a first-pitch fastball from Dunn, sending a towering fly ball in the right-field seats for a 401-foot solo homer that tied the score at 1-1.
With one out and runners on first and second in the sixth inning, Servais went to his best reliever and closer Graveman to pitch out of the leverage situation in the sixth. Graveman did that and worked another scoreless inning.