Finally, on Wednesday, the Mariners got a look at a right-handed starting pitcher — and they pounced and feasted in an 8-3 victory over the Texas Rangers at Safeco Field.
Nobody feasted more than first baseman Adam Lind, a left-handed hitter who started for just the fourth time in 12 games. Lind hit two homers, including a grand slam that capped a five-run first inning.
"You have enough games," Lind smiled, "eventually you’ll have one or two like that. I’m fresh. They got me an at-bat (Tuesday) night to get my timing back.
"But it’s September. It’s not really that big of a deal to miss a few games."
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The Mariners also scored single runs in the second, third and fourth innings in building an 8-0 lead for rookie lefty Ariel Miranda, who responded by allowing no earned runs in six-plus innings.
Miranda (3-1) did allow three unearned runs, following a two-out error by shortstop Ketel Marte in the sixth inning. But a bullpen relay of Nick Vincent, Steve Cishek and Edwin Diaz closed it out.
The victory enabled the Mariners, at 71-68, to claw back to within five games of Baltimore in the race for the American League’s final wild-card berth. They have 23 games remaining.
The Mariners rocked Texas starter A.J. Griffin (7-4) in that five-run first inning. Griffin also gave up leadoff homers to Lind in the third inning and Seth Smith in the fourth.
Smith had three hits and a walk in four at-bats as the leadoff hitter.
"I hit second, usually," he said. "So first is just one spot (different) at the top of the order. You really don’t approach it any other way. Especially after the first time. Then it’s just a normal rotation of the lineup."
Miranda, meanwhile, was cruising. He carried a one-hit shutout into the sixth inning before a sloppy two-out error by Marte turned into three unearned runs.
Marte waved and whiffed at Delino DeShields’ grounder. After the error, Ian Desmond lined a single to left, and Carlos Beltran followed with a no-doubt homer to left.
The eight-run lead was down to 8-3.
"It’s about protecting the baseball," manager Scott Servais said, "and securing those outs late in the game against an explosive team like that. You want to keep them down. That got a little bit of life into them after that."
Miranda exited after starting the seventh inning with a walk to Rougned Odor after jumping ahead 0-2 in the count. In came Vincent, who escaped with no damage — thanks in part to a double play started by Marte.
Cishek worked around two one-singles in the eighth inning, aided by a fine running catch by center fielder Leonys Martin on Adrian Beltre’s tailing drive.
"(Martin) said, `Skip, I’m bringing the leather,’" Servais laughed. "I said, `Good, because you’re not bringing the lumber.’ He brings something every night, and he made a couple of outstanding catches."
Diaz pitched a scoreless ninth inning in a non-save situation.
The Mariners jumped to their big early lead after Smith opened the first inning with a sinking liner to left that skipped past a diving Delino DeShields for a double.
Marte followed with an RBI single past first base for a 1-0 lead.
Singles by Robinson Cano and Kyle Seager loaded the bases with one out before Lind unloaded a 416-foot drive to center for a grand slam. The Mariners led 5-0.
"I had a plan," Lind said, "but it didn’t really go to plan. I was waiting for something soft, but I got (a fastball and got) the barrel there."
Griffin walked the bases loaded with one out later in the inning, but the Mariners settled for one run — on Nelson Cruz’s sacrifice fly. That made it 6-0.
Lind’s second homer, an oppo blast to left while leading off the third inning, extended the lead to 7-0. Smith led off the fourth inning with a homer to center…8-0.
"Nice ballgame," Servais said. "It really was. We came out with a good approach. Strong pitching by Miranda. Probably as smooth and as crisp as we’ve seen him work since he got here — against a hot-hitting team."
PLAY OF THE GAME: Mariners starter Ariel Miranda must have a heck of a pickoff move. Not because he sniffed out Carlos Gomez’s attempted steal in the third inning, which resulted in a caught stealing.
But because Miranda executed the move with the umpiring balkmaster, Bob Davidson, looking on from third base.
PLUS: Seth Smith batted leadoff and responded with a double, a walk, a homer and a single in his four plate appearances…Robinson Cano extended his hitting streak to 11 games with a single in the first inning…Adam Lind’s grand slam was the fourth of his career.
MINUS: Shortstop Ketel Marte committed a two-out error in the sixth inning with a careless approach to a routine grounder. It led to three unearned runs…catcher Mike Zunino and rookie right fielder Ben Gamel each went 0-for-4. Zunino struck out three times.
STAT PACK: Adam Lind has 12 multi-homer games in his career, including two this season. He also reached 20 homers for the sixth time in his 11-year career.
QUOTABLE: Left-handed-hitting Adam Lind on staying sharp while (usually) only starting against right-handed pitchers: "This is the division with the most lefties with Texas and Anaheim.
"I played in the NL Central lsat year (at Milwaukee), and it was predominantly a right-handed-pitching division. That’s just how it goes.
"Sometimes, it can be a good thing, especially at this time of the year. Sometimes, it can be a bad thing. Tonight, I guess, it was good."
SHORT HOPS: The Mariners reached agreement with Short-A Everett on a four-year extension in their player-development contract through 2020. The AquaSox, who play in the Northwest League, have been a Mariners affiliate since the 1995 season. The Mariners’ only remaining open player-development contract is with Double-A Jackson…
Bob Dutton: @TNT_Mariners