For the better part of five innings, that took roughly 2 1/2 hours to play, the Mariners looked like a team sleepwalking through a getaway day game and destined for an embarrassing three-game sweep in just their second series of the season.
Perhaps it was Wednesday afternoon’s frigid temps or the eight walks by starting pitcher Justin Dunn that had lulled them into a state of baseball rigor mortis.
Regardless, they were headed toward an inevitable defeat slowly and without seeming to offer much in the way of resistance.
But in the sixth inning, perhaps awakened by a blast of chilled air off the Puget Sound pushing through the openings of T-Mobile Park, the Mariners’ offense, which had been overwhelmed and dominated by the White Sox’s collection of fireballing pitchers in their starting rotation and bullpen, finally showed a pulse and some fight against lefty Dallas Keuchel, who is decidedly not a fireballer.
Seattle exploded for seven runs in the sixth inning, erasing a three-run deficit and rallying for an 8-4 win over Chicago, avoiding a series sweep. The Mariners finished their opening homestand with a 3-3 record.
“It looked like we were really kind of dead in the water,” manager Scott Servais said. “But you look up and we get a rally going and the young guys kind of feed off each other and that’s what we saw on that ending.”
Seattle went from being dominated in the first two games to dead in the water in the early inning to departing Seattle with a win.
“I’ve said all along you know I really like our ballclub,” Servais said. “I’m proud of our guys. They play hard all the time. We may not play pretty all the time, and today was a little bit ugly, certainly on the mound, but we play hard and it’s a tribute to our guys. They’re young guys who have a lot to prove and a lot to learn. As long as we keep doing that you will scratch out some wins like we did today.”
The Mariners will embark on their first road trip of the season, traveling to Minnesota for a three-game series vs. the Twins (4-2), who are expected to contend with the White Sox for the American League Central title.
“Any time you’re starting a road trip, you always want to end on a good term, you want to have a happy flight,” said third baseman Kyle Seager. “We got hit with the injury bug a little bit this series so that definitely can deflate you a little bit. So having that beginning and pulling this one out, I think that’s a morale booster.”
It was Seager who delivered the biggest hit of the inning — a bases-loaded three-run double to left field that cleared the bases.
But the rally started with pinch hitter Jose Marmolejos, who was batting for an injured Evan White (quad strain), working a walk to start the sixth inning with Seattle trailing 4-1. Dylan Moore followed with a bloop single to right field that Adam Eaton fielded cleanly but made a throwing error allowing both runners to get into scoring position. Tom Murphy singled off the glove of third baseman Jake Lamb to load the bases.
White Sox manager Tony LaRussa went to his loaded bullpen and brought in right-hander Matt Foster to face rookie Taylor Trammell, who came into the at-bat 1-for-15 with 10 strikeouts on the season.
Foster threw a first-pitch fastball that Trammell smoked into right field for a single to score a run. After a strikeout from Sam Haggerty, J.P. Crawford looped a single into right-center that made it 4-3. Mitch Haniger then tied the game with a sac fly to right field.
The Mariners weren’t finished. Ty France, who had scored their only run in the previous five innings, got down 0-2 to Foster and worked an 11-pitch walk to re-load the bases.
“For me that was the biggest at-bat of the game,” Servais said.
Seager enjoyed the battle from the on-deck circle.
“It gave me a lot more time to get loose,” Seager said. “That was an incredible at-bat. He was in there battling.”
Seager knifed a 96-mph fastball into the left field corner for a double and his third hit of the game. It gave Seattle a 7-4 lead. Marmolejos made it 8-4 with a line drive to center.
“Really up and down our lineup we got some really good quality at-bats in a game that we certainly needed it,” Servais said. “Because it wasn’t something to write home about on the mound today. But we’ll take the win.”
Indeed, Dunn didn’t have a great outing. He pitched 4 2/3 innings, allowing just one hit but allowed three runs because of eight walks with three strikeouts. Dunn pitched out of trouble in the first inning and second inning and even had 1-2-3 innings in the third and the fourth. But it fell apart in the fifth when he walked four out of the six batters he faced to force in a run. His replacement, Will Vest, allowed a two-run single, with the runs charged to Dunn.
“You can’t walk four guys in an inning,” Servais said. “That’s probably going to be the end of your day. Part of that is focus, you got to get in the strike zone, and you’ve got to be able to make adjustments a little bit quicker in this league, or typically you’re not going to have very good results. We got lucky today in that regard.”
Dunn was frustrated with the eight walks, admitting he’d never done that in his career.
“When I got in the stretch, it felt a little foreign to me today,” Dunn said. “I was getting a little quick, honestly I divided my attention between holding some really good runners they had over there, trying to execute a pitch and keep us in the game. I probably put a little too much emphasis on controlling the running game and not executing pitches and I started to get a little too fine. But it is what it is. I can’t really make excuses. That can’t happen and I’ve got to build off of it.”