Here you go, Mariners fans. That highly elusive big hit at a key moment in a close game on the road. More than that, it propelled the Mariners to a much-needed road victory.
Taylor Motter hit a grand slam (VIDEO LINK) Sunday afternoon that capped a five-run third inning as the Mariners pumped the brakes on their road frustrations with an 11-1 rout of the Oakland Athletics.
"Everybody played well today," Motter deflected. "I don’t think it was just one hit. Mitch (Haniger) went 3-for-4 today. He had a great day. Nellie (Cruz) hit a home run. (Robinson) Cano had a good day.
"Everyone throughout the lineup had a really good day. It was a combination of everything finally coming together. It was perfect."
Cruz contributed five RBIs, including a three-run homer (VIDEO LINK) in the seventh inning, and Yovani Gallardo delivered a shutdown start over 6 1/3 innings (VIDEO LINK) as the Mariners avoided a four-game weekend sweep at the Oakland Coliseum.
But it was Motter who, at least for one afternoon, blew away the Mariners’ road blues. They led 2-0 but were threatening to waste a knockout opportunity after loading the bases against Oakland starter Andrew Triggs.
Motter drove a fastball over the left-field wall, and the Mariners led 6-0.
"Taylor hasn’t missed many fastballs," manager Scott Servais said. "When the ball is down and middle in, he doesn’t miss it. A very aggressive player. He’s up there hunting the fastball. He got it and put a great swing on it."
The blowout victory followed a series of roster moves earlier in the day as the Mariners sought to shake up their underperforming roster.
Outfielder Leonys Martin was designated for assignment, and first baseman Danny Valencia was effectively benched. More moves are expected over the next few days.
The Mariners had been particularly dismal this season on the road in winning just one of 10 previous games while batting .195 overall and .159 with runners in scoring position.
Motter’s slam pushed all of that to one side. Temporarily, anyway.
Gallardo (1-2) entered the game with a 6.19 ERA through three starts and a miserable career history against the Athletics: 0-5 with a 5.29 ERA in six career starts.
This was a different guy.
"I think everything started with Gallardo," Cruz said, "and the way he pitched. He kept the ball down with the sinker and the cutter."
Gallardo carried a two-hit shutout into the seventh innings before exiting with one out and runners at first and third. Tony Zych permitted one run to score before ending the inning.
"I’ve been feeling great," Gallardo said. "It was just a matter of putting everything together and getting past that one bad inning."
Marc Rzepczynski pitched a one-two-three eighth inning before Evan Scribner closed out the victory.
Triggs (3-1) had not allowed an earned run over 17 2/3 innings in three previous starts, but that streak ended when Cano delivered an RBI single in the first inning.
The Mariners added another run in the third inning when Triggs walked Cano and Cruz after singles by Mike Zunino and Haniger.
Just-recalled Dan Vogelbach struck out, but Motter jumped all over a 90-mph fastball on a 1-0 count for a 401-foot grand slam to left. It was his club-leading fifth homer of the season.
Oddly, perhaps, Sunday marked the end of Motter’s run as the club’s starting shortstop. Jean Segura is expected to be activated from the disabled list prior to Tuesday’s series opener in Detroit.
It seems likely he will still find his way into the lineup on a regular basis.
"We’ll find a place for him," Servais said. "What he’s brought, the offensive punch, to our lineup and the quality of at-bats. We’ll keep moving him around the field."
PLAY OF THE GAME: Vogelbach passed his first defensive test when he made clean scoops at first base on a throws by Cano and Motter in the second inning.
Cano gloved Trevor Plouffe’s one-out grounder on the left side of second base and threw across his body. Vogelbach scooped the bounce for the out.
Motter charged Adam Rosales’ soft two-out grounder and also bounced a throw that Vogelbach scooped.
PLUS: Haniger went 3-for-4 with a walk and raised his average to .321…Cruz had an RBI double and a bases-loaded walk in addition to his three-run homer…Cano had two hits and a walk in three plate appearances…Mike Freeman made a web-gem diving catch (VIDEO LINK) at third base on Jed Lowrie’s one-out liner in the sixth inning…the Mariners were 5-for-12 with runners in scoring position.
MINUS: Freeman’s great defensive play aside, he went 0-for-4, which extended his hitless streak to 14 at-bats. He is likely to be optioned to Triple-A Tacoma to clear roster space when Segura returns from the disabled list…Guillermo Heredia, the new regular left fielder, had a walk but was otherwise hitless in four at-bats. Jarrod Dyson was hit by a pitch in the first inning but finished 0-for-4, which dropped his average to .227.
STAT PACK: The Mariners scored the first run in all four games in the series. They also outscored the Athletics on aggregate by a 21-17 margin. But still lost three of the four games…the Mariners’ 11 runs and 10-run winning margin were season highs.
QUOTABLE: Motter on his slam: "I’m going to be honest. I don’t even know what pitch I hit. It was a fastball? I just put a good swing on it and hoped to get it."
SHORT HOPS: Vogelbach got the first RBI of his career with a single in the ninth inning…Segura went 0-for-5 at Double-A Arkansas against Springfield (Cardinals) in a forgettable final tuneup on his rehab assignment…It also wasn’t a good day rehabbing reliever Steve Cishek, who gave up for two runs and three hits over two-thirds of an inning in Arkansas’ 8-1 loss.
Bob Dutton: @TNT_Mariners