On Tuesday afternoon, Wade LeBlanc got paid, signing a one-year contract extension. On Tuesday night, LeBlanc delivered, allowing one run on three hits in seven innings against Los Angeles to give the Mariners their eighth-consecutive victory.
Not that he’s the type to experience buyer’s remorse or even post-purchase anxiety, but if general manager Jerry Dipoto needed some assurance that his decision to finalize a contract extension for Wade LeBlanc on Tuesday afternoon was the right move, it came later that evening.
Hours after the Mariners announced that they had signed LeBlanc to a contract extension through the 2019 season, worth up to $4.75 million, and with club options for three years beyond, the veteran left-hander went out and provided yet another example of their reasoning of the deal, leading the Mariners to their eighth straight victory.
LeBlanc pitched seven innings, allowing just one run on three hits with a walk and four strikeouts to improve to 4-0 and lead Seattle to a 4-1 victory over the Los Angeles Angels on a perfect summer night at Safeco Field.
Angels @ M’s,1:10 p.m., ROOT Sports
“Big day for him career-wise,” manager Scott Servais said. “It’s good to feel wanted. He’s been around to a number of different places in his career, but we’ve certainly seen the best of Wade LeBlanc. He’s done an unbelievable job for us. And he did it again tonight, shutting down a really good hitting team. He took a lot of sting out of their bats.”
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LeBlanc’s voice cracked a little as he discussed the unusual feeling of stability in his career.
“It’s huge,” he said. “It’s life-changing money, obviously. But for me, I’ve never been the kind of guy to be able to know where my family and I are going to be the next year this early.”
Selected in the second-round of the 2006 draft by the Padres out of the University of Alabama, LeBlanc played with seven different organizations in Major League Baseball and even spent the 2015 season in Japan pitching for the Seibu Lions. The concept of financial stability and reassurance from a team never seemed like a possibility given his uncertain baseball existence.
“Man, to be honest with you, I thought my career was over after Japan,” he said. “We didn’t have a whole lot of bites. The agent that I have now (Joe Rosen) was able to scrounge up some interest, and here we are now.”
Never blessed with a big fastball or exploding breaking pitches, LeBlanc wasn’t exactly coveted before he left for Japan. He’d had minimal success at the big-league level, posting a 21-33 record with a 4.47 ERA in 71 starts and 34 relief appearances.
“I was always kind of a nobody, but then you are really a nobody because you kind of fell off the map,” he said. “I was hanging on to the map by a thread and then I fell off coming back from Japan. You just keep your nose down and keep grinding.”
And now he’s been rewarded for that perseverance.
“It’s a huge blessing,” he said. “I’m really humbled by this extension and will try to make good on it.”
It was a start typical of LeBlanc this season — controlled, efficient, not overpowering but effective. He lived on the edges of the plate, changed speeds and kept hitters off balance. How good was he? Well, he retired Mike Trout all three times he faced him.
LeBlanc’s only run allowed came in the fourth inning. He left a 2-1 cutter over the middle of the plate to Andrelton Simmons that was redirected over the wall in left field for a solo homer.
The Mariners (55-31) jumped on Angels starter Andrew Heaney for three runs in the first inning. Though it was Heaney’s own inability to command his pitches that aided the run scoring.
He gave up a one-out double to Jean Segura and then walked Mitch Haniger and Nelson Cruz to load the bases.
Kyle Seager continued to hit left-handed pitchers at a high rate this season, dumping a line drive into right field for a double that scored two runs. Seattle might have gotten more if not for Chris Young’s ability to get the ball in to an infielder while in serious pain. As Young went to field Seager’s sinking liner, his right leg buckled on the play and he collapsed to the ground. He managed to make an awkward throw from the ground to the cutoff man, but remained on the outfield grass grabbing his leg. He was eventually helped off the field by trainers. It was later announced that Young suffered a right hamstring strain.
The Mariners picked up another run when Heaney’s curveball in the dirt got past catcher Martin Maldonado, allowing Cruz to hustle home. Those three runs loomed large since the issues Heaney had in the first inning were resolved in the innings that followed. He pitched the next six innings scoreless, allowing just three more hits.
The moment Heaney left the game, the Mariners capitalized. Cruz smashed his 22nd homer — a solo blast into the upper deck of Edgar’s Cantina — off Noe Ramirez in the eighth inning to push the lead to 4-1.
Edwin Diaz worked a 1-2-3 ninth inning to notch his major-league-leading 33rd save of the season