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Seattle Mariners

Julio Rodriguez comes through in clutch, Bryce Miller shines again as Mariners top Cubs

By Ryan Divish Seattle Times

SEATTLE – He’s swung and missed at pitches that he knows should’ve taken. He’s fouled off pitches that he knows he should’ve crushed. He’s failed in at-bats with runners on base and in important situations where he knows he needs to come through.

But on Friday night, with a chilly wind swirling through T-Mobile Park, leaving cheeks cold, lips chapped and hands stuff into coat pockets, Julio Rodriguez delivered when his team needed it, giving the crowd of 33,500 fans a reason to bring their hands into the cold air and applaud.

His line drive to center with the bases loaded scored a pair of runs and ignited a three-run fourth inning in what would be a 4-2 Mariners victory over the Chicago Cubs.

In his first plate appearance vs. Cubs lefty starter Jordan Hicks, Rodriguez just missed squaring up 93-mph fastball, sending a fly ball to deep center. In his second plate appearance, Hicks threw him back-to-back changeups in the dirt that elicited a pair of wild swings and misses.

The issues of finding the right timing and being “on-time” to hit the fastball was evident in the first at-bat. The desire of trying to force hits from pitches that aren’t there were highlight in the second plate appearance.”

But when J.P. Crawford worked a two-out walk to load the bases in the fourth, Rodriguez came to the plate looking to build on Seattle’s 1-0 lead.

The Mariners had loaded the bases against Hicks with no outs in the second inning and game away with only one run when Luis Urias was hit in the leg by misplaced slider.

Seattle needed something more from its superstar center fielder.

Hicks fired a first pitch changeup below the strike zone that Rodriguez chased and missed. Perhaps not wanting to follow the same strategy as the plate appearance before and double-up with the changeup, Hicks fired a 93-mph fastball up in the zone that Rodriguez sent into center. Cody Bellinger started to track the ball like he might try and make a diving catch, but the ball bounced in, scoring two runs.

Ty France followed with a single to right field that scored Crawford from third base, giving Seattle a 4-0 lead.

The run support was more than enough for Bryce Miller, who delivered a second straight strong start.

The right-hander worked 61/3 innings, allowing one unearned run on three hits with three walks and four strikeouts. He improved to 2-1 on the season, lowering his ERA to 1.96. In 191/3 innings, he’s struck out 17 batters with nine walks. He hasn’t allowed an earned run in his last two starts.

It was the Mariners fifth quality start – six-plus innings pitched, three runs or fewer allowed – this season and Miller’s second. Seattle has won all five of those outings.

Miller exited the game with one out in the seventh inning, walking Nico Hoerner much to his irritation. The Cubs first run came against reliever Trent Thornton. A bad throw on a pickoff attempt by Thornton allowed Hoerner to advance to second. He looked like he might get out of the inning after Urias made a nice sliding catch in foul territory on a pop up and ranged to his left on a ground ball off the bat of Yan Gomes. But his throw leaked toward home plate and Gomes hit France’s glove as he caught the ball, knocking it free and allowing a run to score. Thornton came back to strike out Ian Happ to end the inning.

After Andres Muñoz worked a 1-2-3 eighth inning against the heart of the Cubs order, Ryne Stanek gave up a one-out solo homer to Michael Busch in the ninth before retiring the next two hitters to end the game.