SEATTLE – Kyle Seager knew he had to look for something more on a day his Mariners had managed just three hits by the eighth inning.
So, when Seager lined what looked like a single to right-center field with one out in the eighth, he took off out of the batter’s box thinking two bases. A headfirst slide just beat the tag to begin the decisive rally of a 3-1 win over the Cleveland Indians.
And that was the story of an eighth straight win by the Mariners on Wednesday afternoon to cap a homestand that could transform this team’s season if these results continue. As was the case much of this series against a determined Indians squad, the Mariners needed to make timely plays both at the plate and in the field to come out on top.
“In the eighth inning right there, you’ve got to take a chance,” Seager said. “I was running pretty hard out of the box, so if I was going to shut it down I would have shut it down late.”
The throw was in plenty of time, but Seager also pulled a nice switcheroo with his hands at the last minute during his slide to confuse Indians shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera as he applied the tag. The switch enabled Seager to sneak his hand farthest from Cabrera into the bag ahead of a tag that wound up getting him up near his trailing chest area.
Cabrera couldn’t believe the call and Indians manager Manny Acta was ejected after coming out to argue. An intentional walk to John Jaso put two on and then – with two out – Eric Thames lined a double down the right-field line off relief pitcher Vinnie Pestano to score two runs.
The Mariners haven’t won eight in a row since the final games managed by Mike Hargrove midway through the 2007 season. Seattle has won 15 of 16 at Safeco Field – including this one, played in front of 18,578 fans – to move to within three games of .500.
“It all adds up,” Mariners manager Eric Wedge said. “We’ve got a bunch of guys out there that are each doing what they need to do to help us win ballgames. All the little things add up.”
Wedge’s team has an off-day today before heading to Chicago for three games against the White Sox, then four games at Minnesota. The road had proved a better comfort zone for the Mariners until this 9-1 homestand, when they began hitting for more power and scoring with greater consistency.
Michael Saunders hit his fourth home run in as many days, off Zach McAllister in the first inning, to get the scoring started. And then, after the Indians tied it in the sixth with a Casey Kotchman dribbler up the third-base line against Hisashi Iwakuma, it was Thames who came through yet again.
Thames hit a tiebreaking, two-run homer in the seventh inning of the series opener Monday to carry the Mariners to victory. On Tuesday, his fifth-inning solo homer was Seattle’s first hit and he later added a triple.
He was 0 for 3 on Wednesday with three strikeouts against McAllister’s sinking two-seam fastballs, but then, against Pestano, he ripped a four-seam fastball down the line.
“I know how he’s attacked me in the past with a four-seamer,” Thames said. “I just wanted to get my head out on the fastball and didn’t miss it.”
Tom Wilhelmsen closed out the ninth for his 19th save to help the Mariners already match their 61-win win total from a dismal, 101-loss campaign in 2010.