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Seattle Mariners

Behind stellar pitching and extra-inning heroics, Mariners grab a needed win over Blue Jays

By Ryan Divish Seattle Times

TORONTO – The pitch wasn’t even a strike. It was a first-pitch sinker a few inches off the outside part of the plate.

So it’s difficult to know if it was executed properly by Toronto lefty Tim Mayza or by the definition of Blue Jays manager John Schneider.

But as he’s been known to do in the indoor confines of the Rogers Centre, Cal Raleigh turned it into a home run.

With his team in desperate need of runs and a victory, the Mariners catcher caught up to Mayza’s first pitch in the top of the 10th inning, sending a line drive into the visitors’ bullpen for a two-run homer, igniting a five-run inning and setting up an eventual 6-1 victory.

“This is big for our team,” manager Scott Servais said. “I know it’s early in the season, but it’s really big for our club. Putting an ending together like that in the 10th inning was great. We got some big hits. That’s what we’re capable of doing.”

The difference between a 1-5 and 2-4 road trip doesn’t seem like a lot, but for the Mariners, ending with a win does make it slightly more tolerable. They had dropped three straight games and played poorly in all facets of the game while doing so. They appeared to be on the brink of a fourth straight loss, wasting a stellar pitching performance from Logan Gilbert due to their inability to score runs.

But Raleigh didn’t let it happen. Not that he was trying for a home run, they just sort of happen vs. the Blue Jays.

“We know he’s a sinker-baller and figured he was going try to get a ground ball to the pull side,” Raleigh said. “I was just really trying to stay on the ball, and I was just trying to move the runner. Luckily, I got the barrel out there. I was just trying to do a job.”

While he will never offer it up first, Raleigh and the Mariners haven’t forgotten the comments made by Schneider last year after Seattle beat the Blue Jays 10-8 on April 30, with Raleigh hitting a pair of homers and driving in four runs.

“He’s not very tough to pitch to when you execute your pitches. You know he’s hitting .200,” Schneider said after the game. “I know he’s done damage against us. He obviously has big damage potential, but he’s also got big strikeout potential, too. When you execute your pitches, you usually get the job done.”

The Blue Jays haven’t done the job much against Raleigh. His 10th-inning homer was his second of the series. In seven games in the Rogers Centre, including two postseason games, he has hit seven homers. In 15 regular-season games vs. the Blue Jays, he’s hit nine homers with 16 RBIs.

“There’s always a little extra motivation to play them,” he said.

Asked if it was a properly executed pitch by Mayza, Servais chuckled, knowing the reasoning for it: “Cal had a properly executed at-bat and I will leave it at that.”

Asked the same question, Raleigh smiled and said: “I mean, they are all properly executed until someone hits them out. I tell pitchers all the time that hitters get paid, too.”

Asked about Schneider’s comments, Raleigh was diplomatic.

“I know a lot of guys have beef with him in the league, so his comments aren’t surprising,” he said.

“I don’t have much to say. If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say it at all, especially if you don’t want it to come back on you. He’s had a lot of beef with people in the league, and he’s done it to himself.”

But Raleigh’s heroics don’t happen without the efforts of his minor-league roommate. Gilbert gave Seattle a brilliant start, pitching into the eighth inning and setting the tone.

“What an awesome outing by Logan Gilbert today,” Servais said. “It’s exactly what we needed. You talk about executing pitches, not backing off, staying and controlling counts, all the things that we preach about on the pitching side, he did it today.”

Relying heavily on his slider to compliment his fastball, Gilbert allowed just two base runners on a pair of singles with six strikeouts over the first six innings, while his teammates provided him with a 1-0 lead.

His only blemish and the only run allowed came in the seventh when Gilbert made a mistake to the wrong hitter. Vladimir Guerrero Jr. annihilated a 1-1 slider that stayed in the middle of the plate, sending a 114-mph, 459-foot shot into the upper deck in left field for a solo homer.

Gilbert finished the seventh and retired the first two batters of the eighth inning before allowing a single to Daulton Varsho and walking George Springer. Instead of having Gilbert face Guerrero Jr. for a second straight inning, Servais called on Andres Muñoz to end the drama, getting Guerrero to fly out to center to end the threat.

Muñoz was able to force the game into extra innings, holding the Jays scoreless in the bottom of the ninth. Toronto managed to load the bases with two outs. Ernie Clement hit a soft liner to right-center that second baseman Jorge Polanco was able to catch on the run. Given the Mariners’ bad luck on the road trip, Servais initially feared the worst.

“Oh yeah,” he said, “it was a huge play in the game. It’s plays like that we haven’t been making. But Polo got a good jump on it. That’s what you have to do. In big-league games, you have to make plays to help your pitching out.”

Facing his former and first MLB team, Yusei Kikuchi tossed six innings for Toronto, allowing one run on three hits with two walks and nine strikeouts.

His lone run allowed came in the third inning. Dylan Moore worked a leadoff walk after falling behind 0-2. He stole second with ease and scored on J.P. Crawford’s single to right-center. It was the Mariners’ first lead of the three-game series.

It was also the first run allowed by Kikuchi against the Mariners in three starts since opting out of his contract after the 2021 season, becoming a free agent and signing a three-year contract with the Blue Jays.

In 2022, Kikuchi tossed six scoreless innings vs. the Mariners in Toronto, allowing one hit with three walks and six strikeouts. In 2023, He pitched 5 1/3 scoreless innings at T-Mobile Park, allowing five this with a walk and eight strikeouts.