For the first time this season, the Mariners are three games over .500 at 59-56 with Wednesday’s 6-3 win over the Athletics.
OAKLAND, Calif. — There have been times during the season it seemed like getting to this point would be an impossibility. And other times when it appeared they were on the verge of getting there, only to be smacked in the face by their own failures and inconsistency.
But for the first time this season, the Seattle Mariners are three games over .500 at 59-56 with Wednesday’s 6-3 win over the Athletics, thanks to two homers from Nelson Cruz and another from Kyle Seager, completing a two-game series sweep.
Wait, three games over .500?
That’s not exactly a Dodgers or Astros-level accomplishment.
But, hey, it’s small victories in the hopes of a larger overall achievement for Seattle. It’s a start to where the Mariners want to go.
“They’ve brought it every day,” manager Scott Servais said. “We’ve talked about bringing it when we started on this trip, knowing that have so many games ahead of us in August, embrace it, go after it. Our team has really come together nice.”
Seattle now returns to Safeco Field to open a seven-game homestand. Those seven games will be the only ones played at home in August, starting with Edgar Martinez jersey retirement weekend.
“It’s a great honor to have Edgar’s number retired and our fans will be very fired up,” Servais said. “But we’ve given them more than just the retirement to be fired up about. We’re in a good spot. We’ve battled our tails off all year to get this opportunity. The last 45 to 50 games are going to be pretty exciting for Mariners’ fans. I’m looking forward to it.”
For a long stretch, the goal was just getting to .500 after such a poor start to the season, which happened on May 10 at 17-17. And after trying and failing to get over .500 multiple times, they accomplished that June 22 at 38-37. Twice prior, they’ve been two games over .500 with the chance to push it to three and failed until now. It’s been a process. But can that process be trusted to find more success given the current state of their starting pitching?
The win over the A’s offered a sign/reminder of how the Mariners have to win games when James Paxton isn’t starting that game — lots of runs scored.
Starter Yovani Gallardo wasn’t good, but he wasn’t terrible. He was just kind of what he’s been much of the season — inefficient and unpredictable. Gallardo pitched 41/3 innings, giving up three runs on six hits, including two homers, with two walks and three strikeouts.
While the quality start — a highly imperfect measure — has been set at six innings pitched and less than three runs allowed, the Mariners have their own version of a “quality start” given their rotation issues this season — five innings pitched and keep the team in the game.
Seattle didn’t really get that in either of their wins against a dismal A’s team.
After rallying from an early four-run deficit Tuesday for the win, the Mariners provided the offense early and tried to piece together the pitching through the game.
Seattle grabbed a 3-0 lead in the first inning when Seager sat on a 1-2 changeup from A’s starter Jharel Cotton, smashing a three-run homer into the seats in deep right-center. It was Seager’s 17th homer of the season.
“I got down 1-2 there and he has a good changeup,” Seager said. “We know about that. Fortunately for me, I got one up in the zone and it worked out. I was just battling right there and just trying to put the ball in play and get something going.”
Given a 3-0 lead before throwing a pitch, Gallardo needed just three pitches to give a run back with Matt Joyce hammering a leadoff homer to center.
But Cruz would provide the rest of the offense. He’s hit some mammoth homers in his career in Oakland, including the memorable shot into the upper deck of dead center. He added to that list in the third inning, destroying a belt high 90 mph fastball and depositing its remains into the stands in deep left-center. MLB statcast measured the blast at 450 feet with a 115 mph exit velocity. It was the highest exit velocity for Cruz on a hit since statcast was introduced.
Seager stood in the on deck circle, stunned at the power, the distance and the sound.
“That’s probably the loudest ball I’ve heard hit on a field,” he said. “From where I was right there, I was pretty close to him, but it was a pop. It sounded like a shotgun. It was incredible how fast it got out and how far he hit it. It was pretty special.”
Cruz’s second homer off Cotton was equally impressive, a line drive to dead center that slammed off the back wall behind the fence. Statcast measured the blast at 440 feet, but didn’t have measurement on the dent the ball left in the wall.
Cruz has now hit seven homers and driven in a club-record 22 runs against the A’s this season. The reason why?
“I can’t explain it,” he said. “You play in the all ballparks and you don’t always feel it. I guess it’s just luck.”
It might be health. After dealing with various leg maladies and then neck and back spasms in Kansas City, Cruz said he feels better than he has in a while.
“Hopefully, I can stay that way,” he said.
Gallardo was pulled in the fifth after allowing a one-out RBI double to Jed Lowrie that cut the lead to 6-3. Emilio Pagan came on to pitch the next 2 2/3 innings scoreless to earn his first big-league win and a postgame beer and condiment shower.
“I just closed my eyes and tried to get some breaths in as they were crushing me with everything in the back room” he said of the shower.
A night earlier, Casey Lawrence pitched in the same role with similar shutout success. With Seattle’s starting pitchers so unpredictable, getting multiple quality innings in middle relief from Pagan, Lawrence and James Pazos will be key going forward.
“We know our role is to bridge to the guys in the back end,” Pagan said. “Any time we can do our job, be efficient with pitches and get deeper into games, it helps a lot.
Tony Zych pitched a 1-2-3 eighth and Edwin Diaz worked a run-free ninth for his 25th save of the season.
The Mariners’ bullpen threw 9 1/3 scoreless innings in relief in the two games.