SEATTLE – Perhaps it was fitting on the day the organization announced his multiyear contract extension to keep him managing the Mariners for the foreseeable future, Scott Servais didn’t have to endure another grind-it-out, one-run nail biter of a decision.
Nope, his team spoiled him with a whopping 3-1 victory over the White Sox instead.
The win snapped the Mariners’ four-game losing streak going into the All-Star break. With a crowd of 43,331 filling Safeco Field on a comfortable Friday evening, it provided an ideal start to the second half of the season.
Seattle improved to 59-39 and pushed its lead to four games in the second wild-card race with the Oakland A’s losing to the Giants.
While a two-run win probably feels like a dream for Servais, the Mariners were tracking toward another one-run outcome. They’ve had 139 of them with Servais as the manager, posting an 82-57 record in those games.
But it was the heads-up base running of Jean Segura and the calm approach of Nelson Cruz with runners in scoring position that gave the Mariners an extra cushion.
With Seattle leading 2-1 in the eighth inning, Segura, who was standing on second, advanced to third on a ball in the dirt that bounced just far enough away from Chicago catcher Omar Narvaez. The extra 90 feet forced the White Sox to bring in their infield and allowed Cruz to pull a ground ball through the left side for an insurance run.
It’s that type of aggressive base running that Servais implored from his team as they came out of the break. And it was evident on the night with Kyle Seager and Mitch Haniger stealing bases.
No longer facing the National League All-Star team, closer Edwin Diaz notched his Major League Baseball-leading 37th save with ease, working a relatively easy ninth.
Wade LeBlanc delivered another outstanding effort. The veteran left-hander worked 7 1/3 innings, allowing just one run on four hits with a walk and 10 strikeouts, which tied a career high, to improve to 6-1 on the season.
The White Sox came into the game second in the American League in strikeouts. LeBlanc used their eagerness to swing early and often to his advantage, staying on the edges, changing speeds, expanding their strike zone and getting soft contact.
It was a clinic on pitching precision.
The White Sox got their first and only run off LeBlanc in the first. With one out, Leury Garcia doubled into left field and later scored on Daniel Palka’s double over the head of Guillermo Heredia in center.
Seattle answered in the bottom of the inning against Chicago starter James Shields. Dee Gordon led off with a single – his first of four hits on the night. He advanced to third on Haniger’s single to left and scored on Cruz’s sacrifice fly to right field.
The Mariners took a 2-1 lead in the fourth. Seager doubled to right field, advanced to third on Denard Span’s bloop single to left and scored on Ryon Healy’s hard ground ball to third base.
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