As Cal Raleigh sat on home plate, breathing heavily and grinning sheepishly at his unexpected accomplishment, the Mariners dugout was celebrating and laughing like little kids.
They just saw a Little League homer — a triple with a throwing error — that allowed their burly catcher, whose nickname refers to the excessive size of his gluteus maximus, dive head first into third base, scramble to his feet and race home all the while a crowd of 20,860 roared in approval.
That familiar feeling of fun, often ignited by hits and runs, has returned to the Mariners for an extended period, removing the pressure-filled angst felt for most of May and early June.
On a night when they needed to score runs because of an uncharacteristically average outing from starter Logan Gilbert, the Mariners, playing their first of four games without suspended shortstop J.P. Crawford, provided plenty offense in an 8-6 victory over the Oakland A’s to open the four-game series over the holiday weekend.
“We’re not used to giving up six runs and winning, so it was a heck of a job for our offense today,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said.
The Mariners have won eight of their last 10 games to improve to 37-41. After sweeping the A’s in Oakland, the Mariners have outscored the A’s 27-8 in their last four meetings, including three games of eight-plus runs scored.
Powered by homers from Julio Rodriguez and Dylan Moore, who will handle shortstop duties in the interim, and Raleigh’s first career MLB triple, they were able to shrug off a subpar showing from their most effective starting pitcher.
Even after working the first two innings scoreless, it was clear Gilbert didn’t quite have his normal command or stuff. He struggled to get first-pitch strikes and put away hitters when he did get ahead.
He also avoided a painful introduction to a well-struck baseball. With one-out in the second inning, Gilbert unleashed a 97-mph fastball to Murphy. The hard-hitting catcher hit a rocket right back where it came from. Somehow Gilbert was able to not only avoided getting hit in the face by the 106-mph line drive, but he also caught it.
The Mariners provided Gilbert with ample run support. They picked up a run in the first inning on Abraham Toro’s sac fly to left field and might have had more if Jesse Winker wasn’t thrown out at third on the play.
The A’s answered with a towering solo homer from Elvis Andrus in the top of the third inning on a 3-2 fastball.
The Mariners retook the lead in the bottom of the inning when Rodriguez homered for the second straight game, launching a deep fly ball over the wall in dead center for a solo homer.
The Mariners pushed the lead to 4-1 with two outs in the fourth inning. Adam Frazier singled to right and Moore turned on an inside fastball, sending it into the upper level of Edgar’s Cantina for his fourth homer of the season.
But Gilbert couldn’t hold the lead, giving up a three-run homer to Ramon Laureano to right field in the fifth inning that tied the game at 4.
His teammates answered with four runs in the bottom of the inning. Toro put the Mariners ahead with an RBI single to left. With two outs and two runners on and facing lefty A.J. Puk, Raleigh drove a slider over the head of center fielder Skye Bolt, who couldn’t make a tough, retreating catch near the wall. The ball bounced off his glove and toward right field. Both runners scored easily and Raleigh raced for third. The relay throw from Andrus hit him in the shoulder as he dived into third base. Raleigh alertly got to his feet and raced home, sliding feet first and lingering on the plate.
Given an 8-4 lead, Gilbert worked a 1-2-3 sixth inning with ease. He started the seventh, but after giving up a leadoff single, he committed a throwing error on a swinging bunt in front of the plate. It ended his outing. Andres Munoz cleaned up the seventh without allowing a run to score.
Gilbert’s final line: six innings, four runs allowed on eight hits with a walk and three strikeouts. His streak of seven consecutive quality starts ended. Of the 27 batters he faced, he threw first-pitch strikes to just 10 of them.
The Mariners allowed the A’s to make it look more respectable as Diego Castillo and Paul Sewald each gave up runs in their innings of work.
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