Felix Hernandez, Robinson Cano, Mark Trumbo and Carson Smith combined to lift the Mariners to a 5-2 victory over Toronto at Safeco Field.
For one night at Safeco Field, a place where they’ve struggled, the Mariners cast an image of what they could be, of what many thought they should be.
There was Felix Hernandez holding court on the mound to the tune of seven innings and two runs, only one earned. There was Robinson Cano driving in two runs with his first triple of the season. There was Mark Trumbo, the Mariners’ key midseason addition by way of trade, muscling a two-run homer.
It all added up to a 5-2 win against Toronto in front of a crowd of 43,328, many of whom were boisterous Blue Jays fans (“Today we played in Toronto,” Hernandez said. “We didn’t play in Seattle. Wow. That was unbelievable.”) And yet the night also underscored just how frustrating this season has been: The Mariners won their first back-to-back games since June 30 and July 1.
Mariners vs. Toronto,
1:10 p.m., ROOT
That was the longest such streak in the majors, and the Mariners played 18 games without stringing together two wins.
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“The only significance is we’re starting to play the type of baseball that we’re capable of playing,” Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon said.
The reality is that the Mariners will have to play unbelievable baseball to get back into the thick of the playoff race. Friday’s win improved the Mariners’ record to 45-52. With 65 games left, they would have to go 45-20 (a .690 winning percentage) to reach 90 wins, although last year, it took 88 wins to make the playoffs in the American League and could take fewer this year. The St. Louis Cardinals are the best team in baseball with a .646 winning percentage.
But this game is what so many had in mind when the Mariners were picked as dark-horse candidates to go the World Series.
It wasn’t a great start for Hernandez. The first batter of the game, Jose Reyes, reached on a swinging-bunt single that turned into an extra base when Hernandez sailed the throw to first over Logan Morrison’s head.
Hernandez walked Jose Bautista later. With Reyes on third and one out, Edwin Encarnacion hit a weak grounder to Morrison. Morrison stared down the speedy Reyes at third, then casually turned to first for the out.
Reyes raced home for a run.
“He turned his back on a speedy runner, which is a mental mistake,” McClendon said. “You’ve got two choices: You can walk down the line and tag the guy, or you can just back up to the base and tag the base. But turning your back doesn’t work against a real fast guy.”
Hernandez went into lockdown mode from there, allowing just one single to the next 15 batters he faced.
“I was commanding the strike zone way better,” he said.
The offense got better, too.
In his 38th game with the Mariners after being acquired in a trade, Trumbo hit his third home run — a two-run shot that just cleared the right-field wall in the fourth inning.
And in the fifth inning, after Kyle Seager led off with a double and Nelson Cruz singled, Cano slashed a two-run triple into the gap to give the Mariners a 4-1 lead.
Cano also scored in the inning on a wild pitch with two outs after Seth Smith and Trumbo failed to deliver a hit or a sacrifice fly.
Hernandez gave up a solo home run to Bautista in the sixth inning and departed after seven, having struck out seven while giving up six hits.
There was plenty for optimists; Cruz had three hits, Cano delivered in the clutch, Mark Lowe and Carson Smith combined to pitch scoreless eighth and ninth innings. And there were still things to pick apart; the fact the Mariners still have so many teams to leap in the playoff hunt, for starters, and Brad Miller getting picked off at third with two outs in the fourth inning.
Either way, it was the kind of win the Mariners need more of going forward.