ANAHEIM, Calif. — After seeing the strategy work well against them on multiple occasions over the past season and a half and then failing to find success when they tried to do the same, the Mariners finally got the results they wanted when “opener” Austin Adams worked a 1-2-3 first inning with strikeouts of Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani.
Throw in a solid “relief” appearance from scheduled starter Wade LeBlanc, six home runs, including two each from Edwin Encarnacion and Tom Murphy, and a rare Seattle error-free game and you get a drama-free 9-3 victory over the Angels on a sun-drenched Sunday afternoon at Angels Stadium.
With the victory, the Mariners (28-41) won their first series of three-plus games since taking three of four from the Angels at Angels Stadium on April 18-21.
During that earlier four-game series in Anaheim, the Mariners won the first three games. Since that series-clinching victory April 20, the Mariners had gone 11-33 until the triumph Sunday.
They now travel to Minnesota where they’ll have Monday off and open a three-game series against the Minnesota Twins, who have the second-best record in the American League.
“Yes, we won a series!” Seattle manager Scott Servais deadpanned. “It’s been better the last six or seven games.”
Adams, who gave up three runs in his first attempt at opening a game, wanted another chance at the duty.
“It’s something I feel like I can do extremely well,” he said. “It’s something that baseball is shifting toward and you want to keep up with the trends. I want to be as appealing as possible to baseball.”
This time the right-hander delivered, working a 1-2-3 inning, retiring Tommy LaStella and then striking out Trout and Ohtani on sliders out of the strike zone.
“I was kind of fan-boying whenever I saw Trout get up,” Adams joked. “That’s a really good 1-2-3. Just a good inning. I don’t know if it’s a secret anymore, but I throw a lot of sliders. I executed today. I threw the sliders for strikes and I was able to do what I wasn’t able to do against the Astros. With the Astros, when I got 1-2, I wasn’t able to get the slider down and away or expand with to get them to chase. I was able to do that.”
Adams admitted he warmed up too early in his previous start. Being on the road changed his schedule and he was able to “mimic” more like being used as a reliever.
LeBlanc entered in the bottom of the second and didn’t inherit a three-run deficit as he did last time, but instead a 2-0 lead thanks to Murphy, who hit a two-run homer to left off Angels starter Jose Suarez in the top of the inning.
And for the second time as a “reliever” in his scheduled start, he gave a solid performance, pitching six innings and allowing two runs on six hits with a walk and eight strikeouts to improve to 3-2. In his two “relief” outings, LeBlanc has pitched 14 innings, allowing three runs on nine hits with two walks and 10 strikeouts.
“We are starting to see some of the hard work pay off,” he said. “I got away with a couple of mistakes, LaStella made me pay on one, but other than that, it was pretty crisp.”
After a clean second inning, LeBlanc gave up a solo homer to La Stella with two outs in the third that trimmed the lead to 2-1.
It stayed that way until the sixth when Encarnacion a hit a line drive over the wall in left-center off right-hander Cody Allen and Daniel Vogelbach followed with a towering homer to deep right field that MLB Statcast measured at 448 feet to push the lead to 4-1. Kyle Seager added a run-scoring single off Allen’s replacement Nick Tropeano to add to the lead.
The Mariners picked up two more in the seventh when Encarnacion hit his second homer of the game — a massive shot to left field. It gave him 20 homers on the season and, more importantly, it was his 400th career home run. He’s now hit 20 or more homers in 10 of his past 12 seasons, including the past eight. Since 2012, he’s hit 283 homers, which is more than any big-league player in that time frame.
Murphy continued to show why he’s been a solid pickup after the trade with the Rockies. He hit his second homer of the game in the eighth to get back a run scored off LeBlanc in the seventh. After doing some swing work with hitting coach Tim Laker, Murphy has five homers in his past five games despite playing a limited basis while splitting time at catcher with Omar Narvaez.
“I’ve been putting in the work with Lake and those guys,” Murphy said. “Thankfully, they’ve had the input they’ve given me. They’re just as big a part of this success.”
Seager finalized the homer parade in the ninth, launching his fourth homer in 16 games played. The blast to deep right-center was the Mariners’ 126th homer of the season, moving them ahead of the Twins for the MLB lead. Minnesota hit four homers Sunday, giving them 125.
“It was nice to see Seager get one,” Servais said. “I was telling Vogey that I would love to see this guy get hot again. His swings have been pretty good and pretty consistent. Hopefully he can continue it on the road trip.”