They did it once against Cole Hamels and the Rangers. Why not do it again?
Down 4-0 after three innings with starter Felix Hernandez scuffling and facing the Rangers’ lefty wasn’t an ideal way for the Mariners to start their toughest stretch of games on their 2017 schedule, featuring 21 of the next 28 games away from Safeco Field.
But much like they did back on April 16 at Safeco, when they were down 6-1 to Hamels after three innings, the Mariners found a way to tie the score against the former All-Star starter, knocking him out of the game and getting the win.
Robinson Cano slammed a two-run single off lefty specialist Alex Claudio over the head of right fielder Shin Soo-Choo to break a 4-4 tie in the top of the ninth and provide the difference in the Mariners’ 6-4 win over the Rangers.
On a night where the bullpen reigned dominant with 3 2/3 scoreless innings and eight strikeouts, Edwin Diaz punctuated the effort by working a drama free, 1-2-3 bottom of the ninth to notch his 20th save.
“The game did not start out in a great fashion,” manager Scott Servais said. “This says a lot about our guys. We just kept chipping away. We’ve been down a bunch here in games in the second half and we’ve found ways to get back into it and our bullpen has kept them there and allows us to complete the comeback. It’s a nice way to start the road trip in a place where we have struggled to come back and win games.”
The Mariners improved to 54-53. It’s just the second time they’ve been above .500 this season. The Mariners had been at an even .500 nine times and had lost seven of the previous eight games with a chance to over that milestone.
David Phelps (3-5) picked up the win in relief. He was absolutely dominant, facing six batters and striking out five and walking one.
“David was on it tonight,” Servais said. “His curveball was really good. He used it early in counts and his fastball had life up in the zone and a good cutter. Having that ability to extend him into the eighth is really valuable.”
Phelps entered the game with one out in the seventh inning. He struck out Adrian Beltre, walked Mike Napoli, which irritated him greatly, and struck out Joey Gallo.
He was even better in the eighth inning. He needed just 10 pitches to strike out Carlos Gomez, Drew Robinson and Robinson Chirinos. He was one pitch away from a nine-pitch, three strikeout immaculate inning. The one ball came on an 0-2 elevated fastball that Robinson didn’t chase.
“It’s good to get out there and have a good one after the last one,” Phelps said, referencing the two runs and four hits he allowed in an inning against the Mets in a loss on Friday. “Baseball is an interesting game. I feel like my stuff was just as good as it was the other day. It’s just that these guys haven’t seen me as much as the Mets. They were probably trying to see a few pitches.”
The Mariners needed a strong bullpen effort after getting a mediocre start from Hernandez, who pitched 5 1/3 innings, giving up four runs on six hits with three walks, five strikeouts, two hit by pitches and two homers allowed.
“It was about as rocky of a start as we’ve seen from Felix in quite some time,” Servais said. “He just didn’t have a whole lot.”
Hernandez issued a four-pitch walk to Choo to start the game. Two batters later, he grooved a 2-2 sinker that was redirected off the bat of Rougned Odor at a high rate of speed, eventually crashing into the seats in the upper deck of right field. It was Odor’s third homer in his last three plate appearances and his 23rd homer of the season.
The Rangers tacked on another two runs in the second inning to make it 4-0 on a leadoff homer from Carlos Gomez and a two-out RBI single from Elvis Andrus.
“I was up the first few innings; the fastball was up,” Hernandez said.
At the urging of catcher Carlos Ruiz, Hernandez began to pitch backward, throwing his curveball and changeup almost exclusively and trying to just get through innings. He worked just one 1-2-3 inning – the fourth inning.
“I thought Carlos did a great job of massaging him through to get to the sixth inning,” Servais said.
With one out in the sixth, Hernandez walked Robinson and hit Chirinos with a pitch. With lefty-swinging Choo coming to the plate, Servais went to lefty specialist Marc Rzepczynski, who got a comebacker for the second out and struck out Elvis Andrus looking to end the inning.
“That was the big inning,” Servais said.
After three innings of not doing much against Hamels, the Mariners got to him in the fourth.
Back-to-back doubles from Nelson Cruz and Kyle Seager started the rally. Danny Valencia drove home Cruz with a single to left, while Seager scored from second when the ball rolled under left fielder Robinson’s legs. Valencia raced all the way to third and scored on Leonys Martin’s fielder’s choice.
With two outs in the sixth and Guillermo Heredia on second having reached on a throwing error by Beltre, Martin hammered an RBI triple to the deepest part of the park, tying the score at 4-4. The ball bounced just in front of the wall at the 407 mark.
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