The win Sunday gave Seattle its first three-game sweep at the stadium since May of 2003. It wast the Mariners’ third sweep in club history at the park since it had been built. The other sweep — a four-gamer — came in 1999.
CHICAGO — Constructed in 1991, the nondescript and semi-generic stadium on the south side has had various iterations of its name.
It was first called Comiskey Park, mimicking the grand old stadium it replaced. In 2003, it was renamed as U.S. Cellular Field after the communications giant bought the naming rights. And this year, it’s been rebranded as Guaranteed Rate Field after the private residential mortgage company based in the city bought the naming rights.
Mariners @ Houston, 5:10 p.m., ROOT Sports
Regardless of the name, it’s a place where the Mariners have found mostly failure and defeat.
That run of futility ended this weekend.
Nelson Cruz crushed a solo homer in the top of the 10th and Edwin Diaz carved up the heart of the White Sox lineup in the bottom of the inning, striking out the side in dominating fashion to close out a 7-6 come-from-behind win for the Mariners and earn his 16th save of the season.
The win Sunday gave Seattle its first three-game sweep at the stadium since May of 2003. It was the Mariners’ third sweep in club history at the park since it had been built. The other sweep — a four-gamer — came in 1999.
To put that into perspective, Edgar Martinez, now the Mariners’ hitting coach, played in the last three-game sweep at Chicago while the winning pitchers were Ryan Franklin, Freddy Garcia and Gil Meche.
But the present trumps any historical significance. After limping into the All-Star break, the Mariners (46-47) needed to come out strong to start the second half to stay in the American League wild-card race, particularly so because this trip concludes with a three-game series at Houston — a place where Seattle has struggled.
“We are playing good ball,” manager Scott Servais said. “Our guys understand that we are kind of up against it and need to turn it on here on this road trip. We stubbed our toe a little bit before the All-Star break. It’s nice to see guys come back. There was a lot of energy in the clubhouse and in our dugout and it’s playing out on the field.”
Getting down 5-0 after the third inning on a shaky outing from rookie starter Andrew Moore certainly could’ve tempered the energy. After looking solid in his first four big-league starts, Moore struggled with command and the long ball. He gave up three homers — two to Avisail Garcia and two in the second inning.
“He’s not used to having that happen to him,” Servais said. “He’s been very consistent throughout his minor-league career and so far for us in the big leagues.”
But Moore’s best pitching attribute — his fastball command — was nonexistent and when that happens he becomes very hittable.
“Fastball command let me down,” he said. “I wasn’t able to get inside as much and that’s why the offspeed wasn’t sharp.”
Servais didn’t hesitate to pull Moore, lifting him after the third and going to right-hander Emilio Pagan, who answered with 21/3 shutout innings.
“Thankfully we had a pretty rested bullpen,” Servais said.
The Mariners then dismantled the five-run lead against Sox starter Derek Holland. Kyle Seager hit his second homer in as many games, blasting a solo shot to right in the fourth inning to make it 5-1.
But the critical inning was the fifth. Seattle loaded the bases against Holland with the first three batters all reaching. Jean Segura plated a run with a sacrifice fly to left and Danny Valencia delivered the game-changing hit, crushing a three-run homer to left field. It was his 10th homer of the season.
“It’s no secret that we have a lot of confidence in our offense to score runs,” Valencia said. “It was still early in the game. We knew we weren’t going to get shut out. We just needed to have good at-bats and get runners on base. Fortunately for me, I got up with a couple men on base and got a good pitch to hit.”
With Holland getting outs in the first three innings on offspeed pitches, the Mariners adjusted their approach.
“He was throwing the fastball in on righties and then going soft after that,” Valencia said. “He was tough early on. We set up a different game plan and started to sit on soft stuff after fastballs in and we were able to do damage.”
The Mariners grabbed a 6-5 lead an inning later, taking advantage of two errors — one fielding and one throwing — by center fielder Alen Hanson to get the go-ahead run to third. Guillermo Heredia later scored on a wild pitch from Anthony Swarzak to make it 6-5.
Unlike the past two games, the Mariners’ bullpen couldn’t keep the Sox scoreless. Jose Abreu’s RBI double off Steve Cishek past a diving Seager tied the game in the seventh.
It set up Cruz’s heroics in the 10th. Facing right-hander Chris Beck, Cruz mashed a 3-0 fastball, sending a low line drive over the wall in left for his 19th homer of the season.
“I was looking at a location and for something you can drive,” he said. “It’s not every time you will get it. But you are looking for something to do damage on.”
After a 24-game drought without a homer, Cruz has five homers in his past eight games.
With a one-run lead, Diaz came out for the third straight game. Unlike on Saturday night when he struggled with his fastball command, Diaz was pinpoint. He struck out Abreu swinging on three pitches, struck out Todd Frazier on five pitches with a foul tip on a 99 mph fastball and then got Garcia on the fourth pitch of the at-bat — a nasty slider away.
“That’s probably the best we’ve seen Eddie Diaz all year,” Servais said. “He really located the slider today and when he’s on, he can be electric.”
After giving up a single and a walk before getting the save on Saturday night, Diaz felt like his mechanics were off a tick. He threw a few pitches off the mound before the game Sunday to fix them.
“Yesterday, I was a little bit shaky,” he said. “I had good results today. I know I need to stay back with my body and my arm. I pulled a couple fastballs today and when (Mike Zunino) told me to stay back, I started making my pitches.”
|AL wild-card standings|
|With the sweep of the White Sox, the Mariners are back in the thick of the playoff race.|