SEATTLE – After fighting through pain and lack of his mobility in his left shoulder, making at-bats uncomfortable at times, and enduring one of the worst slumps of his professional career, Abraham Toro continually looked to the next day as another opportunity for success.
To do that, he likely has avoided Mariners fans on Twitter where his mere presence in the lineup sparks anger, vitriol and discontent.
But on Saturday afternoon, he silenced his detractors, if only for a day, with some late-inning heroics.
With the bases loaded in the ninth inning and the A’s positioning five players on the infield and two in the outfield in hopes of a play at the plate, Toro ripped an uncatchable line drive into the right-center gap off right-hander Lou Trivino that allowed pinch runner Marcus Wilson to trot home with the winning run and the Mariners to celebrate a much-needed 2-1 walk-off victory over the A’s.
“I was trying not to focus on it and just get a ball in the air,” Toro said of the five-man infield. “The pressure is all on the pitcher, not the hitter in those situations.”
With the win, the Mariners have won nine of their past 12 games, improving to 38-42 and avoiding another frustrating loss where they got solid starting pitching and failed to generate enough offense to capitalize on it.
Down 1-0 going into the eighth inning, and having lost out on runs on a ground-rule double that hopped over the fence in the second inning and pair of inning-ending double plays on caught line drives that doubled off runners, the Mariners seemed due for something to change. M’s manager Scott Servais believed it.
“There’s times you think, ‘OK, it’s not our day after that happened,’ but I said, ‘We’re winning this game. This can only go so bad for so long. It’s got to flip,’ ” Servais said.
“And it did. Credit to our guys for hanging in there. Because it’s easy to say it is not our day and we’ll move on until tomorrow. Our guys didn’t do that today.”
It flipped for the Mariners in the eighth inning against the A’s awful bullpen.
With one out in the eighth, Servais called on Justin Upton to pinch hit against A’s hard-throwing lefty A.J. Puk. The strategy proved ideal. Upton ripped the first pitch he saw from Puk into Edgar’s Cantina for his first homer of the season, tying the game at 1.
Eugenio Suarez worked a leadoff walk off right-hander Lou Trivino. Carlos Santana advanced Wilson to third with a single through the right side.
With the A’s moving an outfielder to the infield, Cal Raleigh reached on a fielding error to load the bases for Toro, who came into the game hitting .177 on the season.
After a shaky first inning when he walked Tony Kemp, the first batter of the game, who later scored on a sacrifice fly to right field, an irritated George Kirby went into shut-down mode.
This wouldn’t be a repeat of his previous outing when he allowed seven runs, as that one run was all the A’s were going to get against him.
Kirby pitched the next six innings scoreless, allowing just two hits and retiring 13 straight batters at one point.
Even after Kirby allowed a leadoff single to Murphy to start the seventh, Servais allowed his starter to remain in the game even with his pitch limit nearing. Kirby came back to strike out Stephen Piscotty, get veteran left-handed hitter Stephen Vogt to pop out in foul territory and switch-hitter Skye Bolt to end the inning with a fly ball to left field.
Kirby’s final line: seven innings pitched, one run allowed on four hits with a walk and nine strikeouts. He threw a season-high 100 pitches with 71 strikes.
Kirby’s teammates rewarded the outstanding effort by offering no run support while he was on the mound. A’s starter Paul Blackburn, who pitched 5⅓ shutout innings to beat Seattle on May 25 and gave up seven runs on 10 hits in a loss in Oakland on June 22, returned to his early season form. Blackburn, who was once briefly in the Mariners farm system before being traded for Danny Valencia, tossed 6⅓ scoreless innings, allowing four hits with a walk and five strikeouts.
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