ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – There were Hooters outfits, a SuperGirl costume and other tight-fitting female garb awaiting Mariners rookies as they entered the clubhouse after a rare road win.
But the real rookie show had already taken place on the field Sunday afternoon in a 6-2 win by Seattle that temporarily postponed any playoff-clinching celebration by the Tampa Bay Rays. Dan Cortes continued to mow down hitters out of the bullpen by striking out the side in the eighth inning, Justin Smoak collected two hits and Matt Mangini had a run-scoring single to help the Mariners snap a three-game losing streak.
“I just had a feel this time. I wasn’t nervous,” said Cortes, who has retired all six batters faced with four strikeouts in his first two appearances. “I went in with pretty good confidence.”
Cortes received some advice from catcher Josh Bard before blowing the Rays away with pitches that topped out at 99 mph, but also came with more accuracy than the reliever was known for having in Triple-A.
“I guess I’m just in the zone right now,” Cortes said. “Bard came up to me and said, ‘Just throw strikes.’ He knew that if I could put the ball in his mitt, we’d be able to get these guys out.”
A handful of people who had come from Pittsburgh to watch Josh Wilson – including his mother and father – saw the Mariners shortstop hit a three-run homer to left in the sixth inning to snap a 2-2 tie.
Wilson’s blast was just his second of the year and his first since May 10.
The win was the 24th by the Mariners on the road, which enabled them to avoid tying a 30-year-old franchise record for fewest victories away from home.
But the Mariners also have to go 4-3 the final seven games to avoid a 100-loss season.
The Mariners avoided loss No. 97 when Jamey Wright took over from winning pitcher Luke French after he’d allowed singles to the first two batters in the sixth inning. Wright escaped that jam, then pitched through the seventh before Cortes and Brandon League retired the final six batters.
Cortes looks like he’s already won a bullpen job for next season.
“I like what I’m seeing now, but, at the same time, I like to be cautious,” Mariners manager Daren Brown said. “He’s a guy, obviously, that we need to see and we need to see in various situations.”