It figured to be a tall order Friday for these ailing Seattle Mariners to find a tonic while facing Oakland ace Sonny Gray in the start of a nine-game homestand at Safeco Field.
Because while the Athletics are also tumbling through the season’s opening weeks, Gray has been their Felix Hernandez, their once-every-
five-games elixir. And Gray didn’t disappoint for six innings.
But once Gray departed, and the Mariners quickly pulled even against the Oakland bullpen in the seventh before winning it, 4-3, on Logan Morrison’s leadoff homer in the 11th inning.
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That’s right, after three walk-off losses in their previous seven games, the Mariners won one. Morrison jumped a first-pitch sinker from Dan Otero (2-2) and drove it over the center field wall.
Morrison knew it was gone, too.
“Oh, yeah,” he said. “Yeah. If that didn’t go, I was probably just going to quit.”
Morrison’s drive brought the Mariners rolling out of their dugout to meet him at the plate.
“Wow,” designated hitter Brad Miller said. “That. Was. Awesome.”
The victory was just the second in eight games for the Mariners, who also leaped out of last place past the Athletics.
“That one is going to get us going,” veteran utilityman Willie Bloomquist said. “You watch.”
Carson Smith (1-2) got the victory by pitching two scoreless innings. He was the sixth pitcher used by the Mariners. The only guy not used was Tom Wilhelmsen, who was activated earlier in the day and who had not pitched since April 10.
“It’s a big win,” Morrison said. “All of them are big, obviously, but the way we lost the last two (on walk-offs), it was good to come out and do it to them.”
It didn’t look good early.
Gray gave up one run and six hits in six innings. He also struck out nine before handing off a two-run lead to Evan Scribner.
But Dustin Ackley opened the seventh with a single, went to second on a one-out wild pitch and scored on Miller’s RBI double into the right-field corner.
Fernando Abad replaced Scribner, who had not allowed a run in his 10 previous appearances, for a left-on-left matchup against Robinson Cano, who tied the game by pulling a double just fair past first.
After an intentional walk to Nelson Cruz, Abad held the tie by striking out Kyle Seager on a borderline call from umpire Tony Randazzo on a full-count pitch at the top of the strike zone.
Charlie Furbush immediately put the tie in jeopardy when he started the eighth inning by hitting pinch hitter Billy Burns in the foot. A wild pitch moved Burns to second.
That permitted Burns to take third on Josh Reddick’s fly to deep center.
An intentional walk to Billy Butler set up a double-play situation, but Furbush struck out Stephen Vogt on three pitches.
When Oakland sent up Mark Canha to bat for Ike Davis, the Mariners countered by bringing in Mark Lowe. Canha grounded into a force at second.
This time, the Mariners had the final answer, which included six scoreless innings from their beleaguered bullpen.
Mariners starter Taijuan Walker was working on a nice bounce-back effort from a rough outing in Houston before the Athletics broke a 1-1 tie with two outs in the fifth.
Sam Fuld broke an 0-for-15 skid by grounding a single past Cano and stole second when catcher Mike Zunino couldn’t get a good grip on the pitch.
Reddick then drove a 1-2 pitch into the center field seats for a 3-1 lead. It was the 17th homer yielded by the Mariners through seven games in May after allowing only 14 in 22 April games.
Walker finished the inning before departing with a line that showed three runs and five hits with two walks and six strikeouts. So, yes, much better than last Saturday against the Astros: eight runs in three-plus innings.
The Mariners opened the scoring after Seager started the second inning with a liner over the head of first baseman Ike Davis for a double into the right-field corner.
Morrison followed with a shift-beating grounder through the left side for an RBI single and a 1-0 lead. Just a taste of what was to come in the 11th inning.