SAN DIEGO – As the rhythmic chants of “Let’s go Mariners! Let’s go Mariners!” rang out from the vocal contingent of Seattle fans and players’ family seated behind the third base dugout, J.P. Crawford, his uniform covered in dirt and a smile on his face, acknowledged them as he returned to third base.
He had just ripped a laser over the head of center fielder Trent Grisham in the top of the ninth inning for what appeared to be a two-run triple, later verified by replay review, and removed any sort of drama for the ninth inning.
Instead of Paul Sewald being asked to protect a two-run lead against the top of the Padres order, the veteran right-hander was able to shrug off a leadoff single from Jurickson Profar and work a scoreless inning to close out a 6-2 victory.
With the sweep of the quick little two-game series in San Diego, the Mariners have now won 12 of their last 15 games and moved within a game of .500 at 41-42. The two wins over San Diego represented some of their best baseball of the season.
Are they doing it again?
Are they going to turn a season once thought to be lost with demands to fire everyone or at least fire someone into another magical summer where ending an aggravating postseason drought isn’t just a hope, but a possibility?
“We’re starting to get things on our side,” manager Scott Servais said with a smile.
The players knew they would do it again, even after a 3-8 homestand that dropped them to 29-39 on June 19 in what stands as the nadir of their 2022 season.
“I feel like we’re playing well right now,” Gilbert said. “When we were going through that little rough stretch earlier and getting a ton of questions about it, I don’t think anybody really panicked. We know the baseball we can play. We know we’re really good. So we’re not really worried about those things.”
It’s unlikely Kipling’s “If” and it’s opening lines: “If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs and blaming it on you” was used as a rallying cry. But the players were steadfast in their belief when logic and their performance made it almost impossible.
“I told y’all back in May when we still had over 100 games left that we are fine,” Crawford said. “I knew we were gonna get in a groove like we are right now. I knew it was going to come. It was just a matter of when, and it’s here and it’s been fun.”
The fun continues at T-Mobile Park with a critical four-game series versus the Blue Jays, starting Thursday. Will the series follow past form and feature a majority of Toronto fans?
“Mariners fans fill those seats up,” Crawford said. “Let’s see navy blue instead of that Toronto blue.”
Relying on the bats of Crawford, Sam Haggerty and Dylan Moore, the Mariners provided enough offense to overcome an atypical outing from starter Logan Gilbert.
Haggerty and Moore?
Yes, the duo combined for five hits, scored three runs and drove in four.
“We’re not sexy or anything like that in how we do it with the names that are out there,” Servais said. “But we’ve given guys an opportunity and they understand who they are – ‘I got to get on base. I need to come up with a big hit here. I need to have a good at-bat here.’ That’s what we’re getting from a number of different guys. That’s what it takes to put good streaks together. It’s everybody contributing.”
Gilbert worked 5⅓ innings, giving up two runs (one earned) while allowing six hits, walking three and striking out just one.
“I don’t think I had my best stuff today, but I was just trying to find a way to get outs and be competitive out there,” he said.
After a quick 1-2-3 first inning, the only clean inning of his outing, Gilbert found himself in serious trouble in the second inning. He allowed back-to-back singles to the first two batters he faced – Luke Voit and Eric Hosmer. A bloop single from Nomar Mazara into right field loaded the bases with no outs.
But Gilbert didn’t let the situation overwhelm him.
Following a quick mound visit to slow down the pace of the inning, Gilbert got a first-pitch fastball in on the hands of Austin Nola that resulted in a ground ball to third base. Eugenio Suarez gobbled up the ball and fired to Cal Raleigh for the force out at home. The Padres continued their aggressive approach with Trent Grisham, who swung at a first pitch fastball below the strike zone, hitting a soft fly ball to left field that wasn’t deep enough for Voit, who is built like a professional wrestler, to score on the play. With two outs, C.J. Abrams worked a full count against Gilbert, but his line drive to left-center was caught easily by Julio Rodriguez for the final out of the inning.
His teammates provided a 1-0 lead in the third inning when Sam Haggerty, perhaps the most unlikely of power hitters in the lineup, smashed a solo homer deep into the right-field seats off Padres starter Mike Clevinger. It was Haggerty’s first homer of the season and registered a 109-mph exit velocity – the hardest hit ball during any of his MLB plate appearances.
Gilbert, well, Adam Frazier, gave the run back in the bottom of the inning. Gilbert issued back-to-back walks to Jake Cronenworth and Voit. But he should’ve been out of the inning when Eric Hosmer hit a routine ground ball to second base. However, Frazier misplayed the ball for an error, allowing Cronenworth to tie the game at 1-1.
The Mariners retook the lead an inning later with their four utility players batting in the bottom four spots in the order. With two outs, Abraham Toro worked a walk and Frazier, who had lined out in his first at-bat, ripped a single into left-center that allowed Toro to go first to third. Dylan Moore drove in both runners, ripping a hard ground ball just over the third base bag and into the left-field corner for a two-run double. Haggerty made it 4-1 on crisp line drive single to right field that scored Moore from second.
Gilbert didn’t make it out of the sixth inning. He allowed a bloop leadoff double to Nomar Mazara that Haggerty couldn’t quite grab on a sliding attempt. With his pitch count nearing 100, he got Austin Nola to ground out but walked Trent Grisham to end his outing.
Servais called on Andres Munoz to face his former team in a key leverage situation. He allowed a fly ball in left field foul territory that Haggerty was able to grab, but also allowed Mazara to tag up and score from third. With two outs, Munoz walked Profar but came back to strike out Manny Machado swinging on a 102.5 mph fastball.
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