Seattle’s offense comes to life after many missed opportunities in the series against the Rangers.
In a frigid spring that has felt more like winter and with warm days seeming like a far off dream, taking a 94 mph fastball off your triceps on a raw night with a bone-chilling wind is not something to be enjoyed.
Heck, it probably doesn’t feel good on an 84 degree day.
But little did Guillermo Heredia know as he hopped around in discomfort, shaking his left arm and trying to make the sting go away, that he had unleashed an offense that had been in hibernation for the past 19 innings against the Texas Rangers.
With the bases loaded, right-hander Keone Kela’s misplaced fastball that struck Heredia in the first pitch of the at-bat forced across a run, breaking a 1-1 tie. By the time the last out of the seventh inning was made, the Mariners had scored seven runs to cruise to an 8-2 win Saturday.
The Mariners improved to 14-17 on the season and 4-1 against the Rangers.
When Heredia’s hit by pitch scored the go-ahead run, the Mariners were happy recipients of any good fortune the Rangers’ pitching staff wanted to throw their way. After going 0 for 12 with runners in scoring position and stranding 12 runners in Friday’s 3-1 loss in 13 innings, the Mariners were trending that way a night later.
Seattle was 0 for 6 with six runners left on base through the first six innings against Rangers starter Martin Perez. Their only run came in the first inning on a fielder’s choice by Nelson Cruz that scored Jean Segura from third.
Heredia provided a different kind of “hit” with runners in scoring position.
“We’ll take it any way we can,” manager Scott Servais said. “It opened the flood gates after that.”
Seattle loaded the bases in the seventh with some help from the Rangers. Ben Gamel led off with a single up the middle. Servais elected to have light-hitting backup catcher Tuffy Gosewisch bunt to play for one run. The veteran executed a perfect sacrifice bunt and Perez fired wildly to first, pulling Rougned Odor off the base. The Rangers called on hard-throwing Kela, a graduate of Chief Sealth, to face Jean Segura. A ground ball to the left side was deep enough into the hole that shortstop Elvis Andrus couldn’t make a play on it to load the bases with no outs.
Heredia stepped to the plate having already singled twice and seemed intent on adding to his hit total. Instead, he got hit and picked up his sixth RBI of the season.
“Obviously it was something unexpected,” Heredia said through interpreter Fernando Alcala. “You go up there and try to bring in the run with your bat. But in this case the pitcher lost a little bit of control and I was able to contribute in a different way. I’ll take it. I’m just happy the team won.”
Did the cold make it feel worse?
“Yes,” he said without the need of interpreter.
The Rangers lifted Kela for lefty Dario Alvarez to face left-hander Robinson Cano. He hit the first pitch he saw from Alvarez into deep center for a sacrifice fly and a 3-1 lead.
The Mariners poured it on against Alvarez and a fatigued Rangers bullpen. Nelson Cruz worked a walk to reload the bases. It appeared Texas might escape when Kyle Seager’s pop foul was caught by third baseman Joey Gallo as he crashed into the railing of the third-base dugout.
But with two outs and right-hander Jeremy Jeffress warming in the bullpen, Rangers manager Jeff Banister elected to stay with the lefty Alvarez despite Danny Valencia and his known struggles against right-handed pitching coming to the plate. Valencia made Banister regret the decision, bouncing a single up the middle to score two runs and make it 5-1. Taylor Motter followed with an RBI double and Gamel notched his second hit of the inning, slicing a line drive into left-center to score two runs and make it 8-1.
“We can really really turn it over,” Gamel said of the offense. “When everything is clicking, I wouldn’t want to be an opposing pitcher facing us.”
Said Servais: “Lot of good at-bats, we got the bunt down, we took advantage of their mistake and just piled on after that.”
The explosion of run support in the seventh didn’t come soon enough for Chase De Jong to get his first big-league in win in his second start. De Jong was certainly deserving, pitching six innings, allowing just one run on four hits with no walks and three strikeouts.
“With last night’s game, we didn’t have the luxury of trying to miss bats and things like that; we had to go right after guys and be efficient and get early contact,” De Jong said. “To be able to go out there and help the team out, I didn’t do that in my last inning. And that’s where I failed. I find success in doing my job and covering my innings and not walking guys. Pitching to contact and be aggressive, that’s what I’m capable of doing.”
Having the unenviable task of pitching in Felix Hernandez’s spot in the rotation, De Jong looked much more relaxed than he had in his first big-league start Sunday in Cleveland.
With the roof open, the air cold and a biting wind sapping fly balls of any energy and distance, De Jong, a fly-ball pitcher, was more than happy to let his speedy outfielders track them down.
“I like Safeco,” he said. “It’s good place. It’s a good place to be.”
The only fly ball that wasn’t caught was a second-inning missile off the bat of the hulking Gallo, who has power capable enough to hit a baseball through a blizzard into the stands. His solo homer evened the game at 1-1. But De Jong didn’t panic. He allowed no runs in the next four innings while allowing just two hits.
James Pazos picked up the win in relief.
Texas added a meaningless ninth-inning run on a solo homer from Mike Napoli off reliever Dan Altavilla.