In a doubleheader sweep of the Oakland A’s, where they were the visiting team in Game 1 and the home team in Game 2, the Mariners avoided a walk-off, extra-innings loss in the opening game with a 5-1 victory in eight innings. In the nightcap as the home team, but still wearing their road uniforms, the Mariners scored eight runs in the third inning and rolled to an easy 12-3 win in seven innings.
“Long day of baseball, but a very productive day for the mighty Mariners,” manager Scott Servais joked in a post-doubleheader video conference. “Great effort by our guys today. After losing a tough one last night and getting walked off, you always hope guys bounce back. It was a lot of fun. Guys were loosening and just coming out and competing. Like I said before the day started, I wish the season wasn’t ending.”
And given the nature of the 2020 season being played during a pandemic, all of these circumstances have become pretty familiar, well, except for the Mariners sweeping the American League West champion A’s.
The Mariners go into Sunday afternoon’s season finale with a 27-32 record.
Mariners 5, A’s 1
The Mariners figured out the best way to avoid watching the A’s celebrate another extra-innings, walk-off win this season — score four runs in the top half of the inning to put the game out of reach.
After enduring the A’s sixth walk-off win of the season Friday night, the Mariners found themselves in an extra-innings situation less than 24 hours later.
But this time, they made sure the results would be different.
The Mariners scored four runs in the top of the eighth inning — no, that’s not a typo — and Kendall Graveman worked a scoreless bottom of the eighth to secure a 5-1 victory over the A’s in the opening game.
“I can’t say enough about the effort and the grind that our guys showed,” Servais said in a postgame video conference after Game 1. “We got some grit with this group which is great. It’s great to see because we’re gonna play a lot of these ballgames, a lot of close games against Oakland. It seems like we always have tight ones with them.”
The opening game set up the A’s to add to their league-leading walk-off win total with two opportunities.
With the score tied at 1-1 in the bottom of the seventh, Graveman, a former A’s opening-day starter and now converted reliever, issued a leadoff walk. But he came back to get a double play and another ground ball out to force the game into extra innings.
In the top of the eighth, and with A’s closer Liam Hendriks on the mound, Servais used Dee Strange-Gordon as a pinch runner for the automatic runner at second. Braden Bishop bunted Strange-Gordon to third. But the sac bunt wasn’t needed as J.P. Crawford singled to center to score Strange-Gordon with the go-ahead run. It was Crawford’s third hit of the game and second RBI single.
The Mariners didn’t settle for just the one run. They made that mistake Friday. Crawford stole second and scored on Ty France’s single to left field that made it 3-1. The added insurance came when Kyle Seager crushed a 404-foot, two-run homer to right field off Lou Trivino.
The Mariners got a workmanlike outing from Justus Sheffield in his final start of the season. With his command nonexistent and using a plethora of pitches, Sheffield managed to work through five innings, allowing one run on five hits with two walks and a strikeout.
“It was definitely a grind,” he said in a postgame video conference. “I just really couldn’t locate it like I wanted to. I was trying to go in on the inner half and the ball was just sailing on me. So definitely a grind and I had to compete through that one.”
Admittedly, he wouldn’t have been able to do that a year ago.
“I’m probably still out there searching, trying to figure out what’s going on and figure out what I need to do mechanically to get back in sync,” he said. “I don’t think I could’ve done it.”
Over his last eight starts, Sheffield posted a 2.64 ERA with 41 strikeouts in 47 2/3 innings. He finished with a 4-3 record and 3.58 ERA in 10 starts.
“I feel good about it,” he said “But there’s always work to be done. And I feel like that I can be even better than what I showcased this year. I’m gonna put in the hard work this offseason, and come back even stronger. Work on what I need to work on and come back as a better pitcher.”
Mariners 12, A’s 3
There was minimal drama in the nightcap as the Mariners banged out 12 hits with five extra-base hits in just six innings’ worth of at-bats as they were the home team for a game that was originally scheduled to be played in Seattle.
The Mariners abused right-hander Paul Blackburn, who was called up to be the 29th player on Oakland’s roster in the doubleheader and make the start. If the name sounds familiar, Blackburn was acquired from the Cubs along with Daniel Vogelbach in a trade that sent Mike Montgomery and Jordan Pries to Chicago. General manager Jerry Dipoto dealt Blackburn to the A’s in exchange for first baseman Danny Valencia.
The Mariners exploded for eight runs in the third inning, sending 13 players to the plate, tallying seven hits, including going 6-for-7 with runners in scoring position. Blackburn gave up seven of those runs while only recording one out.
But the 8-1 lead after three innings was just a start.
The Mariners continued to pour it on as Seager blasted a solo homer in the fourth inning, giving him a homer in each game and eight total on the season.
It was also his 500th extra-base hit as a member of the Mariners. He joins Edgar Martinez (838), Ken Griffey Jr. (788) and Jay Buhner (557) as the only players to collect 500-plus extra-base hits with Seattle.
Evan White had a three-hit day, adding a solo homer and a double while Tim Lopes added a two-run homer. Crawford added two more hits in the nightcap, giving him five hits and four RBI.
Justin Dunn took advantage the run support to improve to 4-1. He pitched five innings, allowing three runs on six hits with two walks and two strikeouts. Over
his last six starts, he has a 2.64 ERA allowing nine runs with 29 strikeouts in 30 2/3 innings pitched.