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Mariners throw out runner at plate to end it, beat Rays 5-4

UPDATED: Sun., June 10, 2018, 9:37 p.m.

Seattle Mariners’ Mike Zunino, center, celebrates with Ben Gamel, left, after hitting a two-run home run off Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher Nathan Eovaldi during the sixth inning of a baseball game Sunday, June 10, 2018, in St. Petersburg, Fla. Rays catcher Wilson Ramos, right, looks on. (Chris O’Meara / AP)
Seattle Mariners’ Mike Zunino, center, celebrates with Ben Gamel, left, after hitting a two-run home run off Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher Nathan Eovaldi during the sixth inning of a baseball game Sunday, June 10, 2018, in St. Petersburg, Fla. Rays catcher Wilson Ramos, right, looks on. (Chris O’Meara / AP)

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – When discussing his ever-changing swing – a subject he can go into head-spinning detail if in the mood – admitted over-tinkerer Kyle Seager often will say something to the effect of, “Good swings make outs and bad swings get hits all the time.”

It’s sounds more Kaline than Kant.

Still, there was nothing bad about his swing on Sunday against hard-throwing lefty Jose Alvarado.

After watching Alvarado walk Nelson Cruz on four pitches and then fall behind 3-1 to him, Seager knew he’d be getting a fastball and he was ready for it.

He unleashed one his best swings of the season, clobbering the belt-high, 96-mph heater from Alvarado off the right-field scoreboard of Tropicana Field. The two-run blast in the seventh inning – his 12th homer of the season – proved to be the difference in the Mariners’ 5-4 win over the Rays on Sunday afternoon.

Seattle (41-24) won yet another series on the season and finished 4-2 on the road trip, taking three of four at the Trop and finishing the season series with a 6-1 record.

“I actually like where I’m at right now,” said Seager, who rarely makes such comments about his swing. “(Alvarado) had been kind of all over the place, but he’s got really good stuff. His ball has got a lot of sink to it. I was just trying to get something in the air, not necessarily trying to hit a homer. He was throwing hard so he supplied all the power on that one.”

The Mariners would love for Seager to stay where he’s at right now as well. With Robinson Cano suspended, the team’s offense has been lagging. Seager has been hitting just .185 with a .586 on-base plus slugging percentage since Cano was removed from the lineup. But this was his third homer on the road trip.

“Seags has got a history of hitting homers off of lefties, especially when he gets in those fastball counts,” manager Scott Servais said. “I thought Kyle had a really good game offensively. The first two balls he got caught deep into center. I was joking with him. You are just hitting it to the wrong guy. He made a nice adjustment.”

Of course, the Mariners being the Mariners, playing with a two-run lead felt just too comfortable. So James Pazos and Alex Colome combined to allow a run to score in the always drama-filled eighth inning.

Pazos allowed a one-out single to Joey Wendle and was lifted for Colome, who promptly walked the first guy he faced, failed to cover first base on what would have been an inning-ending double play and then gave up a RBI single to Wilson Ramos before ending the inning on a ground ball.

“Alex didn’t react really quickly,” Servais said. “It’s the first thing he said when he came out. He hung in there. I think he’s really tired of pitching against the Rays. All of his appearances have been against them with us. He’ll welcome facing another club.”

In the ninth inning with a runner on first, closer Edwin Diaz gave up a looping single to Carlos Gomez that Mitch Haniger couldn’t make a sliding grab on. Johnny Field tried to score when he saw Haniger struggle to pick up the ball. But Haniger picked up the ball and fired a perfect throw home to catcher Mike Zunino, beating Field by five steps to end the game and give Diaz his 23rd save of the season.

Seattle is now 21-9 in one-run games this season.

Seager’s homer broke a 3-3 tie in the top of the seventh inning and put starter James Paxton in line for a win. The big lefty followed with a shutdown 1-2-3 bottom of the seventh inning to punctuate an up-and-down outing where he allowed three runs on five hits but struck out 10 batters and walked none to improve to 6-1 on the season.

“After the third inning, I had a little forearm cramp going on and I went out a little hesitant in the fourth inning and didn’t let it rip because I didn’t want to have something go on me. And then I figured out that it was fine and I got back to let it rip again. It happened in the middle of the fourth. It was just easing into and finding out, ‘Am I OK or not?’”

Forearm issue?

“We checked it all out,” he said. “It’s fine. There are no problems. We did all the tests. It’s good to go. It’s just a little something where I was getting in a bad position on my cutter when I was throwing that pitch. I was kind of dragging it a little bit. Just have to get my hand back on top. We’ll work on that this week to allow it to be easier on my arm.”

Given a 1-0 lead after Cruz’s solo homer to deep left-center off of Rays’ starter Nathan Eovaldi, Paxton gave up more hard contact than usual in the middle innings. A leadoff double from Johnny Field in the third led to a run being scored. C.J. Cron smashed the first pitch of the fourth inning for a solo homer to right and Jake Bauers later added an RBI double to push the lead to 3-1.

Zunino got the Mariners back into the game with one vicious swing, smacking a two-run homer to left off of Eovaldi, ending his outing and tying the game at 3-3 in the sixth.

“He had really good stuff,” Zunino said. “I got to a 3-2 count and fouled off a heater and I was able to get a hanging breaking ball and was able to put the barrel on it. I caught it enough and was barely able to get it out, which was nice.”

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