OAKLAND, Calif. – With each solid start, Mike Leake moves closer to becoming the next Mariners veteran player to be traded in the 2019 season.
The Mariners tried to move Leake in the offseason, talked trade with the Arizona Diamondbacks a few weeks ago and will continue to shop him to teams as a reliable innings-eater until the July 31 trade deadline.
Will it happen? It largely depends on how much of Leake’s remaining contract the Mariners are willing to eat in the process. Also contingent is whether Leake will waive his full no-trade clause, which is contingent to his perception of the possible future situation.
Leake pitched seven innings Sunday, allowing three runs on seven hits with no walks and seven strikeouts, and the Mariners gave him some late run support with a four-run eighth inning to rally for a 6-3 victory over the Oakland Athletics.
“Mike has really been on point the last four times out,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said. “It’s been really fun to watch him pitch. No walks today. Commanding his stuff. He allowed a couple long balls, but he just keeps doing what Mike Leake does – grinding and keeping us in the ballgame.”
It clinched a series win in the three-game set in Oakland and gave Seattle its second series win of the three-city trip. The Mariners took the opening three-game series against the Angels, dropped the series in Minnesota and finished 5-4 on the trip.
“We’ve moved on from a few veteran players,” Servais said. “The team is starting to realize that this is our team going forward. Coming out here and having a winning road trip is a good sign. We go back home and hopefully we can keep the momentum going there. It’s nice to see this team come together. As things settle down with our roster, hopefully we play a little better together.”
It might be a wishful hope for roster stability given the Mariners’ overall organizational plans. General manager Jerry Dipoto is known to jump the trade market before MLB’s July 31 deadline.
For Leake, it was his fourth straight outing of seven-plus innings. He’s thrown 30 innings in that stretch, allowing eight earned runs (2.40 ERA) on 23 hits with two walks and 20 strikeouts and notched three wins. Of his 15 starts this season, Leake has pitched at least six full innings in 12 of them. They aren’t dominant numbers, but effective.
“There’s some pitches I’ve adjusted and pitch-ability I’ve adjusted and how I’m watching hitters,” he said. “I’ve been fortunate to be in this game long enough to learn those things.”
Leake knows that he or second baseman Dee Gordon could be the next player to be traded as the Mariners cull the roster of players with guaranteed contracts. But he avoids the on-line speculation and tries to ignore the possibilities.
“That’s the fortunate part of having years in the game, you get the ability to learn how to do that,” Leake said. “I’ve been traded. I’ve been signed as a free agent. I’ve been through it.”
The A’s grabbed a 2-0 lead off Leake in the second inning. Khris Davis led off with a solo homer to right-center and Robbie Grossman later added a run-scoring double.
The Mariners answered in the top of the third off A’s starter Tanner Anderson. After Austin Nola’s first big-league hit, Mallex Smith smashed a line drive over the wall in right field for his fifth homer of the season. Of Smith’s five homers, three are against the A’s. They are his only three hits against Oakland in 17 at-bats.
“Mallex is Mallex,” Servais said. “We really don’t know what we are going to get every day. There are games where he’s slapping it into left field and games where he’s pulling balls in the air. But that was a big hit to get us right back in the game.”
The A’s retook the lead in the fourth when Ramon Laureano launched a ball into the seats above the wall in deep left-center for a 3-2 lead.
It looked as though Laureano’s blast would be the difference in the game.
But A’s set-up man Lou Trivino, who has been dominant against the Mariners, struggled in the eighth inning.
With one out, J.P. Crawford worked a walk, Domingo Santana reached on a dropped fly ball in right and Daniel Vogelbach walked to load the bases. Kyle Seager delivered the decisive hit, yanking a ball into right field for a two-run double.
“He’s really tough,” Seager said. “We had some really good at-bats against him. When you are facing a guy as good as him and they’ve already put a lot of pressure on him, it makes my job easier.”
Having the bases loaded forced Trivino to pitch more conservatively and Seager knew it.
“He has to be in the zone a lot more and use a lot of the chase pitches and you don’t want to bounce breaking balls and potentially let it get away,” Seager said. “There’s a lot of advantages having that in an at-bat.”
The Mariners continued to add to the lead against Trivino’s replacement, Yusmeiro Petit. Tom Murphy scored Vogelbach on a sacrifice fly and Dee Gordon followed with a RBI triple into right to make it 6-3
Austin Adams worked a scoreless eighth inning, despite allowing two base runners.
Roenis Elias worked around an error by Crawford to start the ninth to notch his seventh save.
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