No early deficit followed by a crazy comeback?
A lack of drama in the later innings?
Another comfortable win without a save situation?
It all seem so very un-Mariners compared to a season ago when they thrived on one-run wins and late-inning anxiety. But this recent stretch of baseball has offered another glimpse of what this team, with its offseason improvements, can be when it performs up to capabilities.
Powered by three homers, more steady starting pitching from their ace and typical shutdown relief work from the bullpen, the Mariners rolled to a relatively easy 6-2 win Tuesday over the Texas Rangers.
It was their fourth win in five games — all of them by a margin of four runs or more — and moved them to 6-5 on the season.
“That was a nice night, nice ballgame,” manager Scott Servais said with a relaxed tone. “It was short, crisp, homers, good pitching, solid bullpen. It kind of checked all the boxes tonight. It’s a nice way to start the series and continue a productive homestand.”
Making his first start as a member of the Mariners at T-Mobile Park and the third start in Seattle of his career, Robbie Ray delivered another typically solid if not lengthy outing. The hard-grunting lefty pitched six innings, allowing two runs on four hits with a walk and four strikeouts. He threw just 85 pitches in the outing with 57 strikes. The Mariners planned to not push Ray to 100 pitches in the outing.
Unlike his previous two outings, Ray didn’t deal with any sort of weather conditions that might generate an alert from the National Weather Service.
“It was kind of amazing,” Ray said with a wry smirk. “It felt good. Feel good to have some conditions that are conducive for pitching.”
His teammates gave him ample run support from the first inning, grabbing a quick 3-0 lead against Rangers starter Jon Gray. With one out, the baseball magnet that is Ty France was hit by a pitch for the third time this season, and Jesse Winker worked his team-high 11th walk to bring Eugenio Suarez to the plate.
After throwing a pair of fastballs for called strikes on the outside corner, Gray tried to throw a slider just a little farther outside of the previous two pitches to see if Suarez would chase at it. Instead, the pitch hung in the part of the zone where Suarez could get his arms extended, sending it well over the wall in dead center for his third homer this season.
“He tried to throw me away,” Suarez said. “I was ready for another pitch away. I know he’s not coming inside in that situation when it’s 0-2. He didn’t miss that pitch. It was a good pitch for him, but my swing was ready to put the ball in play.”
The blast measured 415 feet, which was impressive considering the roof was open at the time with temperatures dropping into the 40s.
“Not off the bat, but I knew I hit it really good,” Suarez said. “I thought maybe it was off the wall. But as soon as I saw the center fielder stop, I knew it was gone.”
The Mariners made it 4-0 in the second inning when Jarred Kelenic continued his assault on right-field foul poles around the league.
Kelenic ambushed a first-pitch fastball from Gray, yanking a screaming line drive that bounced off the foul pole in right for his second homer of the season. Both of his homers have been off the right-field foul pole this season.
The Rangers picked up their first run against Ray in the third inning when Eli White led off with a double and later scored on Marcus Semien’s sacrifice fly to left field. Texas made it 4-2 in the fifth when White reached on a two-out walk and scored from first on Semien’s double into the left-field corner.
With a rested bullpen following the off day and only a two-run lead, Servais turned over the game to his top relievers for the final three innings.
After Drew Steckenrider pitched a scoreless seventh, Seattle got two big insurance runs from an unlikely source. Abraham Toro came into the game with just two hits in 23 plate appearances this season and hadn’t hit the ball with any sort of authority. That changed on an 0-2 fastball up and out of the strike zone. Toro got on top of the 92-mph fastball from Spencer Patton, sending it into the seats in deep right-center for his first homer of the season.
“Toro has been struggling a little bit and he just tries to get the bat on the ball,” Servais said. “You look up and it’s a two-run homer — big, big hit in the ballgame. It gave us a little breathing room there.”
Paul Sewald pitched an uneventful eighth inning, and Diego Castillo worked a scoreless ninth inning.
“Everybody is chipping in, and that’s what it takes,” Servais said. “I talked about it when we left spring training. I thought this was the most balanced team that we’ve had since I’ve been here. And it’s starting to play out that way.”