ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – A day after getting shut out and looking quite ineffective, the Mariners’ bats came to life on Saturday in the sterile environs of Tropicana Field.
Dustin Ackley broke open a one-run game in the fifth inning, blasting a bases-loaded double off a 0-2 curveball by Rays starter Alex Cobb to deep center that scored all three base runners, leading Seattle to a 7-4 win over the Tampa Bay Rays. The M’s are 32-29.
“On 0-2, I was looking fastball,” Ackley said. “I’m trying to look fastball on every pitch. And when I do that, I’m usually on time for that curveball. Those are the ones you can’t miss. Those are the ones they leave up that you have to hit.”
“That was a big hit for us,” Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon said of Ackley’s double. “And he’s capable of doing that. I tell him every day, ‘I want you to be the best player on the field,’ because he’s capable of doing that.”
Ackley’s hit spurred a four-run fifth. Willie Bloomquist drove in the other run, dumping an RBI double into left field – his second run-scoring hit of the game – to make it 7-2.
Seattle’s Cole Gillespie snapped the 11-inning scoreless streak, crushing a solo homer to center off Cobb in the second inning, his first homer of the year.
“That was one of those where you don’t feel the contact,” Gillespie said. “It was one of my better swings I’ve had this year, if not the best.”
M’s starter Roenis Elias gave the run right back, giving up a solo homer to James Loney to start the bottom of the inning. He walked Yunel Escobar and then gave up a single to Logan Forsythe. Rays manager Joe Maddon had Ali Solis bunt Escobar home from third to make it 2-1.
The M’s answered in the fourth. Bloomquist delivered an RBI single and Endy Chavez added a sacrifice fly to give Seattle a 3-2 lead. Bloomquist, who was starting at first base for Justin Smoak, was 2 for 4 with two RBI. In his last three starts, he’s 5 for 11 with three RBI.
“He took his BB gun out and shot ‘em right between the eyes,” McClendon said jokingly.
Ackley broke it open in the fifth – more than enough for Elias, who retired 17 of the next 19 hitters he faced.
But his quest for a second straight complete game came to an end in the eighth inning. He gave up a one-out double to Desmond Jennings. After getting Sean Rodriguez to ground out, McClendon let Elias try and finish the inning. But he couldn’t do it. Rays all-star third baseman Evan Longoria hammered a fastball up in the zone over the wall in left-center to cut the lead to 7-4.
“We probably left him in a little too long,” McClendon said. “But he gave us a nice outing.”
McClendon admitted that if the score had been closer, Elias wouldn’t have started the eighth inning.
Elias, never shy or afraid, just shrugged off the two runs in the eighth.
“It’s baseball,” he said through interpreter Fernando Alcala. “In the end, we still won the game.”
But after throwing his first career shutout against the Tigers in his previous outing, Elias was happy to come back with another solid outing to show it wasn’t a fluke.
“I’m very proud of it because worked really hard to be able to do what I’ve been doing this season,” he said. “I’m doing what I’m capable of doing. I’m working hard towards keeping that going.”
Danny Farquhar came on to get the final out of the eighth.
With more than a few boos, Fernando Rodney came on to pitch a 1-2-3 ninth inning to register his 17th save.