Kendall Graveman and his 100-mph two-seam fastball are back. That’s a nice option – and, no doubt, the best option – to have for Mariners manager Scott Servais as he attempts to solve ongoing riddle of his late-inning bullpen usage.
Graveman, after three weeks on the COVID-19 injured list, made his return to the mound Saturday, allowing one run in the eighth inning against Cleveland.
It got worse for the Mariners’ bullpen from there.
Much … much … much worse.
Rafael Montero wilted in the bottom of the ninth inning, blowing a three-run lead with two outs and wasting one of the best starts of Yusei Kikuchi’s career.
Cleveland went on to win the game 5-4 with a walk-off run in the 10th inning on an errant throw home from Mariners right-hander Paul Sewald.
The final play – an easy double play gone wildly wrong – was the perfect capper for the most dreadful performance of the season for the M’s bullpen.
The Mariners led 4-0 going into the eighth inning. Graveman allowed a solo home run to Cesar Hernandez – the first run Graveman has allowed all year.
In the ninth, Montero got two quick outs and the Mariners appeared well on their way to a victory – until Montero walked back-to-back batters with two outs.
Pinch hitter Bobby Bradley’s bloop single made it 4-2, and ex-Mariner Rene Rivera doubled off the left-field wall to tie it.
Kikuchi walked Cleveland’s leadoff batter on five pitches and soon got a mound visit from the Mariners’ trainer to check on the left-hander’s ailing right knee.
Kikuchi rebounded from a most uncomfortable start to produce one of his most dominant performances with the Mariners.
Kikuchi retired 13 of the last 14 batters he faced, and he allowed just three hits and three walks with six strikeouts a week after taking a hard-hit ball off his right knee in a loss to the Los Angeles Angels.
The Mariners also welcomed back second baseman Dylan Moore, who in his return from the injured list went 2 for 4 with a home run, a double and two runs batted in. His seventh-inning homer traveled 427 feet out to left field and extended the Mariners’ lead to 4-0.
Jake Fraley continued his hot road trip, belting a two-run home run in the third. It was the third homer of his major league career – and all three have come on this 11-day, 10-game, cross-country trip.
The Mariners benefited from a wild start from Cleveland right-hander Triston McKenzie, who recorded just two outs before being pulled in the first.
He threw just 12 strikes with his 32 pitches – issuing four walks, including one to Moore with the bases loaded to give the M’s a 1-0 lead.
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