DETROIT — After four days of facing the strong starting pitching and almost unhittable bullpen of the Cleveland Guardians, grinding out three wins and scoring a total 14 runs on 19 hits while striking out 37 times, the Mariners hitters were happy to face someone, anyone else.
Unfortunately for Tigers starter Matt Manning, he was on the receiving end of those frustrations.
The Mariners pummeled the young right-hander, roughing him up for seven runs on seven hits, including homers from Ty France and Cal Raleigh, knocking him out of the game in a six-run third inning, and cruising to an easy 9-3 victory that wasn’t even that close.
“That’s a great, great way to start the trip,” manager Scott Servais said. “We haven’t swung the bat like that in quite some time.”
The Mariners had not scored more than four runs in a game since scoring 10 runs against the Athletics on Aug. 19 in Oakland.
Following that lopsided 10-2 win, the Mariners scored just 24 runs over their next eight games while posting a .187/.261/.354 slash line and striking out in 24% of their plate appearances.
Pitching for one of the worst teams in baseball, Manning had been solid in his previous five outings, posting a 2.15 ERA with nine walks and 27 strikeouts, all coming after a lengthy stint on the injured list with shoulder inflammation.
That previous success mattered little as the Mariners took advantage of breaking balls in the middle of the plate.
Seattle rolled into the third inning with a 1-0 lead after France, who had three hits on the night, made it consecutive games with a homer. France crushed a hanging breaking ball from Manning over the wall in center for his 16th homer.
“We saw a lot of guys on time with good swings but none more important than Ty France,” Servais said. “I was hoping that would carry over from what he did on Sunday and that started with the first swing of the night. He smoked that ball to right-center. That’s a long ways to hit it out. And he just continued on the rest of the night.”
The blast measured 438 feet with a 107-mph exit velocity.
“I was running hard,” France said. “It’s tough to go there. I knew I hit it well but this park is big.”
France was mired in an awful slump, posting an .086/.141/.086 slash line with just five hits — all singles in 64 plate appearances.
France has five hits in his last two games.
“We definitely went back and watched some film, but I wouldn’t say it was one particular thing,” he said. “I think it was just my body was out of sync. We got on the velo machine [on Saturday] and I think that helped.”
Raleigh led off the third inning with a solo homer to right to make it 2-0. From there, the Mariners made it snowball on Manning.
Abraham Toro followed with a single in his first plate appearance since being sent down to Tacoma on August 6.
Julio Rodriguez doubled into the left-field corner to put runners on second and third. After Jesse Winker struck out looking, Mitch Haniger roped a single to left field to score Toro and make it 3-0. It was the first of a merry-go-round of RBI singles to left as Eugenio Suarez and France followed.
“He left some breaking balls up,” Servais said of Manning. He’s a young guy. He’s got really good arm. But we were on some breaking balls early, kind of like to get-me-over breaking ball on the first pitch. Our guys were ready to hit from the first pitch.”
A walk to Carlos Santana ended Manning’s outing. He exited with one out and the bases loaded. But the Mariners weren’t done.
Adam Frazier roped a single to left field that scored Suarez and Raleigh hit a fly ball to center that scored France to make it 7-0.
The Mariners made it 9-0 in the fifth inning when France notched his third hit of the night and Santana followed with a massive two-run homer to left-center off lefty Daniel Norris.
A 4-for-8 night with runners in scoring position and three homers will usually produce more than four runs.
“Our guys were on it,” Servais said. “It’s great to see when you just keep the line moving and everybody contributing having good at-bats and barreling some balls up. We just haven’t done that recently and sometimes it just takes a night like that for everybody’s confidence and it lets everybody relax again.”
Seattle got another solid start from rookie right-hander George Kirby, who had a 7-0 lead before he took the mound for the bottom of the third inning.
Kirby pitched five scoreless innings, allowing just two hits with a walk and five strikeouts to improve to 6-3 and lower his ERA to 3.16. Over his last five outings, Kirby is 4-0 with a 2.15 ERA (seven earned runs in 29 1/3 innings pitched) with three walks and 34 strikeouts.
“I just tried to stay aggressive and tried to get ahead in counts,” Kirby said. “I thought I did a good job of that for the most part.”
With the game a rout and a need to still manage his overall workload, Servais pulled Kirby after a fifth inning where he loaded the bases with one out and worked out of it scoreless.
“That was really the plan coming into the game,” Servais said. “If we could get him out around the 80-85 pitch count, depending on where the game was at. When we got the early lead like that, in my mind I was gonna get him out as soon as we could. He doesn’t have an extra day rest before his next start on this trip at Cleveland. Hopefully we can go a little bit longer than that next time.”
Right-hander Chris Flexen, who moved into the bullpen with the acquisition of Luis Castillo, made his first appearance since August 19. Flexen allowed three runs over the final four innings and was credited with a four-inning save.
“For Flex to come in, he hasn’t pitched in 10 days and gives you four innings gives us a full rest for the rest of guys in the bullpen,” Servais said. “It was awesome.”