The Mariners, who continue to pile up injuries in their starting rotation, offered a glimpse of a winning strategy by outslugging the Phillies 11-4 on Wednesday afternoon to get to .500 for the first time this season. Seattle has won six of its last seven games.
PHILADELPHIA — This is how the Mariners are going to have to win games going forward.
Wednesday’s 11-6 drubbing and, really, the two-game sweep of the Phillies at Citizen’s Bank Park offered a glimpse into the best strategy for the Mariners.
With 80 percent of their projected starting rotation on the disabled list and basically the Class AAA Tacoma Rainiers’ rotation stepping in, the idea of shutouts and low-scoring affairs isn’t plausible.
Mariners @ Toronto, 4:07 p.m., ROOT Sports
Nope, the Mariners are going to have to outhit, outscore and outlast their opponents until the pitching staff gets healthy. Meanwhile, for the interim starting pitchers, who are now tasked with filling those innings, the goal of six innings and not allowing an overwhelming amount of runs is a fair request.
“That’s kind of the formula for us right now,” manager Scott Servais said. “Have our starter keep us in the game, go to the bullpen … and maybe shorten the game a little bit and keep it tight enough where our offense can figure it out. It’s worked out well.”
Considering the potential of the offense, it might be the best strategy for the remainder of the season. Seattle scored 21 runs on 32 hits, including 10 extra-base hits in the series. The Mariners improved to 17-17 and are at .500 for the first time in 2017. They’ve won six of their last seven games.
“It’s a day at a time,” Servais said. “If you start saying, ‘Oh, we’ve got to win seven out of 10,’ it gets too confusing. Our guys — tip my hat to them — they have not gotten down even with the early struggles.”
Seattle settled for a so-so outing from No. 1 starter by default, Yovani Gallardo, and made it stand up by exploding for eight runs over the final three innings to turn a 3-3 tie into a laugher.
Before the game, Hisashi Iwakuma was placed on the disabled list with shoulder inflammation, joining Felix Hernandez (shoulder bursitis), Drew Smyly (flexor strain) and James Paxton (forearm strain). That leaves Gallardo, the lone member of the M‘s projected 2017 rotation, and on Wednesday he pitched five innings, giving up three runs on four hits with three walks and a strikeout.
Given his elevated status as last remaining starter, it wasn’t a great outing. The Mariners gave Gallardo a 3-0 lead on a first-inning sac fly from Kyle Seager and a two-run homer from Robinson Cano in the third off Philly starter Zach Eflin. But like he did in a previous start in Cleveland, Gallardo tossed the lead away, giving up a three-run homer to Aaron Altherr in the bottom of the inning.
“The command wasn’t there,” Gallardo said. “I made a bad pitch there.”
Still, that was the extent of damage allowed in his five innings.
Most of the Mariners’ damage came in the seventh inning against former Mariner Joaquin Benoit. Danny Valencia put the Mariners up 4-3 with an RBI double into the corner that allowed Cano to score from second. Former Phillie Carlos Ruiz then relived a little of his glory days in the park, hammering a bases-loaded double to left-center that scored all three runners to make it 7-3.
“We are just focused on every at-bat and we weren’t chasing their pitches,” said Cano, who had four hits and a base-loaded walk and three RBI in the game. “I think if (starting pitchers) can give us five or six innings, we can be pretty good.”
Though he wasn’t pitching well this season, the absence of Iwakuma is still an issue. He was replaced on the roster by right-hander Sam Gaviglio, who had his minor-league contract selected from Class AAA Tacoma. To make room for Gaviglio on the 40-man roster, right-hander Evan Marshall, who suffered a severely strained hamstring, was placed on the 60-day disabled list. The move with Marshall was expected because he’s expected to be out at least two months if not longer.
Gaviglio, 26, was 2-3 with a 3.31 ERA in five starts with the Rainiers this season. In 322/3 innings, he’s struck out 16 with three walks. The Mariners will use him as a long reliever out of the bullpen. Gaviglio, a former Oregon State standout, pitched for Team Italy in the World Baseball Classic.
Iwakuma was scheduled to start Thursday in Toronto in the series opener against the Blue Jays. Instead, right-hander Chase De Jong has been moved up a day and will make that start on normal rest.
Right-hander Christian Bergman, who pitched well in relief on Sunday, will start Friday. Saturday’s starter is to be determined. The Mariners could use Dillon Overton in that spot or they could call up Chris Heston or Ryan Weber from Tacoma. Both have big-league experience.
The discomfort in Iwakuma’s shoulder has been building.
“It’s been in the last couple of starts,” Iwakuma said through interpreter Antony Suzuki. “It’s just when I pitch off the mound, I feel discomfort and irritation.”
Iwakuma came to Servais and informed him that the shoulder wasn’t responding.
“He just didn’t feel like he was ready to pitch yet,” Servais said. “He’s a pro.”