SEATTLE – The largest Safeco Field crowd since the home opener came out Friday night in hopes of seeing the arm of the future mow down a longtime nemesis.
Instead, the Seattle Mariners got something more thrilling than another ho-hum clinic from 22-year-old starter Michael Pineda.
The Mariners treated the announced crowd of 33,715 to a full-meal-deal victory, complete with over-the-wall catches, opportunistic hitting and comeback rallies. In the end, Seattle scratched out a 4-3 win over the New York Yankees to continue an improbable return from the depths of obscurity.
The win put the Mariners’ record (25-25) at .500 for the first time since the opening week of the season, thanks in large part to a 9-2 streak over the past 13 days. Seattle moved to within a game of first place in the contender-free American League West, which can only bode well for future attendance from a fan base that doesn’t have much tolerance for also-rans.
“Everybody’s just helping each other out, and it’s resulting in W’s,” said Mariners shortstop Brendan Ryan, who had a run and an RBI in a game that saw Seattle score all four of its runs on ground-ball outs. “Hopefully, it keeps happening.”
Since starting the season with a 4-11 mark, the Mariners have come alive to go 21-14 and get back into the mix.
A lot of that has had to do with Seattle’s starting pitching, although Friday night was a different story.
In Pineda’s shortest outing of the season, the 22-year-old right-hander walked five batters, gave up three hits and allowed three earned runs in just five innings of work. He threw 96 pitches, including 68 in the first three innings.
After retiring the first two batters of the game, Pineda gave up a towering solo home run to Mark Teixeira and started to unravel from there. He walked four of the next eight batters, but worked his way out of jams in the second and third to keep the score at 1-0.
Pineda got a huge hand in the top of the fourth, when centerfielder Franklin Gutierrez went over the wall in right-center field to steal a home run from Nick Swisher in front of the bleachers.
Pineda then allowed three consecutive base-runners with two outs in the fifth, one of which scored on a wild pitch. Shortly thereafter, Gutierrez just missed saving another run when Alex Rodriguez’s line-drive single dropped just in front of the centerfielder to bring home Teixiera for a 3-0 Yankees lead.
The Mariners got two of the runs back in the bottom of the inning, thanks to a leadoff single by Ryan, an Ichiro Suzuki double and back-to-back groundout RBIs by Luis Rodriguez and Justin Smoak.
Seattle’s opportunistic offense continued to pay dividends an inning later, after Yankees starter A.J. Burnett got taken out. A pair of singles and a Carlos Peguero walk against two New York relievers loaded the bases with no one out, then Ryan drove in a run with a fielder’s choice grounder to shortstop, and Ichiro gave the Mariners their first lead with a groundout to short to score Miguel Olivo.