Mike Leake gave the Mariners seven complete innings and allowed just two runs, propelling them to a 3-2 win over Oakland and snapping a five-game losing streak.
On his 105th and final pitch of the game, Mike Leake uncorked a nasty, biting slider to strike out Marcus Semien swinging on a 1-2 count, stranding a runner on third and ending the top of the seventh.
Perhaps they were out of practice having not seen it much this season or in quite a while, but soon the Mariners fans in the crowd of 19,030 on Friday night slowly began to build their applause as the newest Seattle starter walked toward the dugout. Then it began to dawn on most of them just how rare this circumstance was for this season. They soon rose to their feet and increased the cheering to an ovation worthy of the outing.
In his first game as a Mariner after being acquired in a trade on Wednesday and spending all day Thursday relocating to Seattle, Leake gave the Mariners seven complete innings and allowed just two runs, propelling them to a 3-2 win and snapping a five-game losing streak.
Wait, seven innings?
Yes, manager Scott Servais wasn’t forced to go to the heavily reinforced bullpen, thanks to September roster expansion, early in the game and start matching up innings after two times through the lineup. This was a legitimate big-league start.
“It was great to see,” Servais said. “I love the way he works. It’s a very aggressive, attacking, up-tempo style. It was a big shot in the arm for us, him coming in here and stopping a losing streak and hopefully getting us some momentum going forward.”
The Mariners haven’t gotten many of them this season. It was just the 22nd time a Seattle starter had pitched seven complete innings in an outing. That’s 22 times out of 135 games. And just the 17th time a pitcher had gone seven innings and allowed two runs or less.
“Thanks for reminding me,” Servais deadpanned. “But it hasn’t happened often enough. It does a lot for your club. A lot of games are won or lost in the fifth, sixth inning and being able to have the starter hand it off to our backend guys was huge. It gives guys a breather in the bullpen too.”
Leake’s debut started off a little shaky. He gave up back-to-back singles to Marcus Semien and Matt Joyce and Jed Lowrie followed with a run-scoring double into the right-field corner. The A’s tacked on another run on a ground ball to second for a 2-0 lead before the Mariners had an at-bat in the game.
“I was glad I was able to settle in and put up zeroes the rest of the way,” he said. “They showed that they were going to be pretty aggressive today so I had to make a pretty quick adjustment. I started locating the fastball. I was a little erratic out of the gate.”
And when you are making your 229th big-league start, there is also no reason to panic that early in the game. Leake calmly worked out of the jam in the first and navigated minor stretches of discomfort and baserunner traffic over the next six innings, but never allowing another run.
“I thought his stuff was really good in the sixth and seventh inning,” Servais said. “He kind of dialed it up when he had to.”
After the game, Leake was calm and reserved as he discussed a pretty solid Mariners debut.
“I’m excited,” he said. “I mean I might not show it. The last few days were such a whirlwind that it’s probably going to take the next few days to interact and get to know these guys and show my emotion.”
If anything, throwing pitches and facing batters — even in a completely different environment — made everything easier.
“It’s definitely the normal part of this business, going out there and playing the game,” he said. “It’s been a whirlwind the last few days. It’s nice to finally be here and competing.”
The Mariners provided some level of run support despite the season-long trend of running the bases as if they borrowed blinders from a horse at Emerald Downs.
Mike Zunino got their first run of the game in the third, providing another example of his freakish strength and raw power. Zunino muscled a solo homer to right field off A’s starter Sean Manaea to cut the lead to 2-1.
It was Zunino’s 20th homer of the season in just 317 at-bats. It was the second time in his career he had reached the 20-homer mark in a season. It was just the 23rd time a catcher has hit 20 or more homers in a season since 2012.
“I’ve really just put the focus on having quality at-bats,” Zunino said. “What I’ve done, making the changes and stuff has allowed me to be in the zone longer and drive balls to that side of the field.”
Seattle tied the game later in the inning when Jean Segura singled to left, stole second and scored on Mitch Haniger’s RBI single up the middle. Kyle Seager gave them a lead with a sac fly to deep right to score Haniger. But Robinson Cano was thrown out at third after tagging up at second to end the inning with Danny Valencia waiting to hit. That didn’t please Servais.
“We made a couple of baserunning mistakes tonight,” Servais said. “We have Valencia coming up to hit and he really hits left-handed pitching. It’s one of my pet peeves, ending an inning on the bases. Making the final out there, you let the pitcher off the hook.”
Leake and the bullpen made the three runs stand up. Marc Rzepczynski and Nick Vincent combined to work a scoreless eighth and Edwin Diaz notched save No. 31 with a 1-2-3 ninth.