All was right in the Mariners’ world again on Tuesday night.
A night after manager Lloyd McClendon joked that people would think “the world’s caving in right now” and promising his team would be “OK tomorrow” following Monday’s frustrating 2-0 loss, the Mariners responded with a win requisite of their status as a playoff contenders.
Seattle got a solid and much-needed long start from rookie James Paxton and the offense provided more than enough production in a decisive 5-0 win over the Texas Rangers at Safeco Field.
With the win, the Mariners improved to 72-59. They maintained their half-game lead over the Tigers in the standings for the second wild card and moved five games behind the Oakland A’s, who lead the wild-card standings.
While baseball is a game where the worst team can beat the best team on any given night in a 162-game season, it’s also a game where good teams should still win two out of three games in a series, particularly a team in a postseason race.
The Mariners were coldly efficient on what will likely be one of the last warm nights of the summer.
After some inconsistent outings since coming back from the disabled list, Paxton looked more like the pitcher that started the season – overpowering and dominant at times.
Paxton threw 6 2/3 shutout innings, giving up just four hits, while walking three and striking out four. He was lifted after walking Robinson Chirinos with two outs in the seventh inning and his pitch count at 118 – the highest total this season.
It was the longest outing for a Mariners’ starting pitcher in the last six games. And it was needed for a bullpen that has been overworked in the last 10 games.
The Mariners’ best hitter set the tone immediately. There would be no shutouts by a mediocre starting pitcher on this night.
Robinson Cano made sure there would be runs scored on the night, belting a solo homer to right field in the first inning off Rangers’ starter Nick Martinez.
Cano reached down and drove a low curveball, muscling it over the wall for his 12th homer of the season.
An inning later, Seattle scored on Jesus Sucre’s bases-loaded ground ball to third. Former Mariner Adrian Beltre made a ridiculous stop on the bouncing ball that carried him into foul territory. Like he did so many times in a Mariners uniform, Beltre unleashed a laser-beam throw across the diamond to get the slow-footed Sucre. While the play drew oohs and ahhs from the fans, Kyle Seager was able to scamper home to make it 2-0.
The Mariners started to pull away in the fourth inning. Logan Morrison drew a leadoff walk and Chris Taylor followed with a single up the middle. With runners on first and second and nobody out, McClendon had no interest in playing small ball. Instead, Endy Chavez swung away and rewarded his manager, belting a double to center field over the head of Daniel Robertson to score both runners. Chavez was thrown out trying to advance to third. But the Mariners kept going. Austin Jackson tripled with two outs and scored easily when Dustin Ackley hit a rocket back up the middle past a frightened Martinez to make it 5-0.
That’s all the Mariners would need. They improved to 55-10 when scoring more than four runs in a game this season.