ANAHEIM, Calif. – Patience at the plate paid dividends for the Seattle Mariners on Sunday.
When Shohei Ohtani, one of the most formidable pitchers in baseball, finally left the mound, Seattle seized the opportunity, scoring three runs in the eighth inning on its way to a 5-1 victory over the Los Angeles Angels that kept the Mariners in the thick of the American League wild-card race.
Manager Scott Servais said before the game that while his players have the utmost respect for Ohtani, they do not fear him. The Mariners made the Angels’ ace work out of several jams before Jarred Kelenic cracked Ohtani’s 105th pitch over the right field wall to tie it 1-1 with one out in the seventh inning.
Matching Ohtani pitch-for-pitch was left-hander Marco Gonzales, who allowed a solo homer to Kurt Suzuki in the second inning, then retired the next nine batters. Gonzales surrendered only three hits and struck out five in seven innings. Paul Sewald fanned two of the three Angels he faced in the eighth, and Diego Castillo worked a 1-2-3 ninth inning as the Mariners ended the road trip 8-2.
“We knew we were going to be in for a battle the way Ohtani’s been throwing the ball and the type of season he’s had,” Servais said. “Give a ton of credit to Marco Gonzales. He pitched his tail off, like he often does in big games. He’s such a good competitor. Jarred (Kelenic) hits a huge home run. … He got his pitch and he didn’t miss it, and J.P. (Crawford) set the tone with a 10-pitch at bat to start the game.”
Ohtani was lifted after allowing five hits and striking out 10 batters in seven innings. Jose Quijada started the eighth, and the Mariners started perhaps their most important rally of the season.
Crawford led off the inning with a double. Ty France struck out, but Kyle Seager legged out an infield single, moving Crawford to third. Austin Warren relieved Quijada, and Mitch Haniger promptly singled to center to score Crawford and give the Mariners their first lead. Crawford has hit safely in seven of his past eight games and 22 of his past 28.
Having finally gotten to the Angels’ bullpen, Seattle was hungry for more. Abraham Toro reached on an error to load the bases, and Jake Fraley belted a bases-clearing double off the center field wall to chase Warren and give his team a four-run lead. Fraley stole third but the Angels’ third reliever, Sam Selman, got Tom Murphy to fly out to end the inning.
“It was a big plus for Jarred to get us on the board like that,” Fraley said. “Ohtani has been pitching well. So we knew he was going to have good stuff, but we had a game plan against him. We tried to string together hits when we could and get into the bullpen. On the double, I was just trying to attack something I could hit and try not to do too much.”
“This speaks to the character in that clubhouse, there’s not a lot that can phase us ,” said Gonzales, who won his ninth straight decision. “We win as a team, we lose as a team. We ended the series on the right note. We executed the plan well. We know those guys through and through. We really only made the one mistake to Suzuki, other than that we were very confident with the pitch selection, the sequencing was on point, we executed and got ahead in the count a lot. It was a good team win.”
The Mariners won for the 19th time in their past 26 road games to stay hot on the heels of Toronto (87-69), only two games out of the second AL wild-card spot. The Blue Jays also won Sunday while wild-card front-runners New York and Boston wrapped up a series Sunday night at Fenway Park.
“Marco’s been rock solid all year,” Fraley said of Gonzales. “He is an unbelievable pitcher. He gives us a chance to win every time.”
Seattle finished 44-37 on the road this season. Its 44 victories are tied for sixth most in club history with the 2018 and 2000 teams. With his seventh-inning blast, Kelenic is tied for eighth in Mariners history for homers in a season by a rookie (14).
Crawford, Seager and Kelenic each had two hits for Seattle (86-70), which took two out of three in Los Angeles and returns home to T-Mobile Park for the last six games of the regular season: three with Oakland and the last three with Los Angeles.
“We’re excited to end the road trip this way – everyone’s in a good mood right now,” Fraley said. “We all understand the situation. Take it pitch by pitch, inning by inning, game by game. We’ve been doing it all year. When tough games happen, when we get our butts kicked like yesterday, we usually come out the next day more determined.”
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