Just a day earlier, Tim Lopes was relegated to the purgatory that is the alternate training site in Tacoma. With the scheduled intrasquad scrimmage scuttled due to poor air conditions, he was just happy to get 10 minutes of hitting in the cage Sunday morning.
Meanwhile in Arizona, Kyle Lewis wasn’t in the starting lineup for the first time since Aug. 6 – a span 31 games. The hope was that a “day off” might help recharge him and break him from a two-week slump in which he had .130/.245/.261 slash line with just six hits in 46 at-bats, two homers, three RBI, seven walks and 17 strikeouts.
On Monday, playing through the hazy smoke-filled air of T-Mobile Park, the duo helped pull the Mariners back from what seemed like a certain defeat – a five-run deficit in the fourth inning of seven-inning opening game of a doubleheader with the Oakland A’s. The Mariners won that game 6-5 before losing the second game 9-0.
Called up as the 29th player only for the doubleheader and to face the A’s two left-handed starting pitchers scheduled, Lopes didn’t let inactivity hinder him, smacking three doubles in three plate appearances, including the game-tying double in the sixth inning.
“I last faced pitchers maybe three or four days ago, but that’s been about it,” Lopes said in postgame video conference. “It was more of a see-ball, hit-it approach.”
Meanwhile, Lewis smoked a two-run homer in the fifth inning to bring Seattle to within a run. An inning later, he took a four-pitch walk with the bases loaded to force the game-winning run across home plate. Veteran right-handed Yoshihisa Hirano, working his third game in three days something he’d never done in his MLB career, pitched a scoreless seventh to secure Seattle’s stunning 6-5 come-from-behind victory.
Given the circumstances, including an unexpected opportunity at a spot in the expanded postseason, it was Seattle’s best win of the season.
“Heck of a comeback,” manager Scott Servais said in a postgame video call. “It was awesome to watch against a very good team and a very good starting pitcher. Luckily enough, we were able to get him out of there and made some really good swings against their bullpen.”
The rally helped offset an unexpected and frustrating start from staff ace Marco Gonzales, who just didn’t have his typical command to be as effective as normal. A rare walk to the first batter he faced – Marcus Semien – might have been an indicator. Gonzales came into the game with just four walks in 50 2/3 innings pitched this season.
“Yeah, one walk and everybody panics,” Gonzales joked. “Obviously, I didn’t have my best stuff. The cutter is a huge weapon for me, and I was struggling to find the finish on it.”
When Semien crushed a three-run homer off Gonzales in a four-run fourth inning, the Mariners seemed destined for defeat, down 5-0.
“After I gave up the home run to Semien, I thought – ‘from here on out it’s going to be zeros and let’s see if the boys can come back and get a W,’” Gonzales said.
“The boys” did just that, slowly chipping away at the lead and lefty starter Jesus Luzardo, who looked dominant for the first 3 2/3 innings, allowing just two hits with seven strikeouts.
In the fifth inning, Jose Marmolejos led off with a linedrive homer into center field that trimmed the lead to 5-2. It was his sixth homer of the season, giving him hits in six straight games and 14 of his last 15 games. During that time, he’s batting .360 (18 for 50) with four doubles, five homers, 15 RBI and five walks.
Lopes followed with his second double of the game and jogged home when Lewis crushed a first-pitch fastball from Luzardo into the seats in deep right-center for a two-run blast. It was Lewis’ 10th homer of the season.
Game 2: A’s 9, Mariners 0.
There would be no comebacks possible in this game. The Mariners’ bullpen, the worst in baseball, needed to cover seven innings without three of its best relievers – Hirano, Kendall Graveman and Anthony Misiewicz – available due to usage.
And not even Kyle Lewis’ unbelievable grand-slam robbing catch to end the first inning could stop the inevitable, only prolong it.
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