Say this much. The Mariners know how to stage a Fan Appreciation Night.
Nelson Cruz delivered a two-run homer Friday in the ninth inning that produced a 3-1 walk-off victory over Cleveland’s nearly unbeatable Indians at Safeco Field after Erasmo Ramirez worked eight dazzling innings.
All of which proves you just never know.
The Mariners had lost a season-high six games in a row before Cruz’s 405-foot blast against Cody Allen (3-7) sent the Indians to only their second loss in the last 29 games.
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"They’re the best in the American League," Cruz said. "They have the (best) record, and they good offense and good pitching. Ramirez was the key. He kept us in game until we were able to score some runs."
Cruz’s homer was his 36th of the season and boosted his American League-leading RBI count to 114. It also came after he was honored as the Mariners’ player of the year in a pre-game ceremony.
"That’s what you need to beat good teams," manager Scott Servais said. "You’ve got to get the big hit late. You’ve got to make the plays late in the game. Obviously the last six days we haven’t done that."
Ramirez settled for a no-decision after allowing just one run and three hits over eight innings. He also had 10 strikeouts and didn’t walk a batter. The eight innings and 10 strikeouts matched career highs.
"I’m just happy," he said. "I can not describe how happy I am. To be able to get back on track after that homer (by Giovanny Urshela), it was something huge. It’s so great to be back on the winning side."
It represented a fabulous bounce back by Ramirez after giving up six runs over four innings in his previous start against Houston. Prior to that, he had a string of six straight quality starts.
"We haven’t had a outing like that in quite some time," Servais said. "To get through eight innings against a very talented team. It really all starts with pitching, and the job he did on the mound tonight was awesome."
Cleveland starter Trevor Bauer, who suffered the only loss in the Indians’ previous 28 games, was nearly as good in limiting the Mariners to one run and five hits in seven innings.
The victory lifted the Mariners to 75-79 but, with eight games left, they remained five games behind Minnesota in the race for the American League’s final wild-card berth.
The Indians opened the scoring when Urshela led off the third inning with a no-doubt homer to left. It was his first big-league homer of the season and came in his 146th plate appearance.
The Mariners didn’t get even until Cleveland’s defense betrayed Bauer in the seventh inning.
Kyle Seager led off with a double off the glove of first baseman Carlos Santana. Yonder Alonso followed with a single through the right side. Seager initially stopped at third but chugged home when right fielder Jay Bruce misplayed the ball.
It stayed 1-1 until Cruz’s boomstick moment.
***The Big E: Ramirez is just 1-3 in 10 starts since rejoining the Mariners in a July 28 trade from Tampa Bay despite compiling a 3.79 ERA in that span.
"He’s been one of our most consistent guys since we’ve acquired him and got his pitch count built up," Servais said. "Nothing really fazes him. He’s got a happy-go-lucky personality, and it worked out great."
As a point of reference, the Mariners’ club ERA is 4.44, and the American League average is 4.37.
Further, much of the damage against Ramirez came in two starts: five runs in five innings on Aug. 6 at Kansas City, and six runs in four innings in his previous start against Houston.
Take those two games out of the mix, and Ramirez’s ERA since the trade drops to 2.44.
***Still another free out: Before his walk-off blast, Cruz added another chapter to the Mariners’ season-long baserunning blues.
He had just gotten the Mariners’ first hit against Bauer with a one-out single in the fourth inning when, inexplicably, he tried to steal second base.
"I was timing him," Cruz explained. "I thought I had it timed. One-two-three, he was going (to the plate). One-two-three, he was going. One-two-three and he waited a little bit longer. And he got me."
When Cruz broke for second, Bauer simply stepped off the rubber and threw to shortstop Francisco Lindor, who applied the tag for the out.
***Web gems: The Mariners supported Ramirez by executing two sparkling defensive plays in the fifth inning.
First, catcher Chooch Ruiz pounced on what initially appeared to be a well-placed bunt by Roberto Perez. Ruiz then made a strong throw to first for the out.
Urshela followed with a hard grounder up the third-base line that Seager backhanded and turned into the third out.
Seager also charged in for a barehanded pickup on Edwin Encarnacion’s soft grounder in the seventh inning. Seager’s strong on-line throw produced an out.
Bob Dutton: @TNT_Mariners