Jarrod Dyson called it a playoff atmosphere Friday night at Safeco Field and, since he’s one of the few Mariners with World Series jewelry, that can’t be easily dismissed as hyperbole.
The Mariners stormed back for a 4-2 victory over Toronto in front of a raucous crowd of 33,518 that seemed largely comprised, as expected, of Blue Jays fans.
"There was a lot of (Toronto) blue out there," Dyson said. "But at the same time, that’s momentum to the home team because you want to quiet the crowd. They were pretty loud. It felt like we were in a playoff game."
There was a lot to like.
Rookie right-hander Sam Gaviglio weathered a rocky first inning and pitched through the sixth: "I was just rushing down the mound (in the first inning) and getting open a little early. I was a little frustrated with myself."
The bullpen supplied three more scoreless innings and punctuated the victory with Edwin Diaz throwing a 101-mph fastball for a game-ending strikeout past Kevin Pillar.
In-between, there was a game-turning defensive play that resulted in an out at the plate and three clutch RBI singles by Danny Valencia, Dyson and Kyle Seager.
"Tonight was good," Dyson said. "You can build off of that. That’s a game right there that you can build off of. I like the way the team is playing."
The Mariners won for the 10th time in 12 games and climbed back to .500 — at 31-31 — for the third time this season. On Saturday, they look to finally push their record into the black.
Gaviglio gave up two runs, one earned, in six innings; the fifth time in six starts that he permitted fewer than two earned runs. He threw a career-high 102 pitches.
"That’s really what he’s done for us since day one when he got here," manager Scott Servais said. "He hasn’t gotten over-amped and let it get away from him. He’s kept things in check and given us a chance to win."
Even so, the Mariners trailed 2-1 when Tyler Cloyd replaced Gaviglio and made his first big-league appearance since Sept. 13, 2013. Cloyd got two quick outs before Pillar lashed a single to right.
Josh Donaldson followed with a drive into the left-center gap. Dyson raced over from center, realized he couldn’t catch the ball but knocked it down with a diving lunge even as Pillar kept running.
"I realized I wasn’t going to catch it," Dyson said, "and I think if I had kept running, it would have got by me. My best chance was to try to lay out and trap it. I was able to keep the ball close to my body."
Dyson recovered in time to make a snap throw from his knees to shortstop Taylor Motter, who threw a dart to the plate that beat Pillar for the out.
"Just catch and throw it," Motter said. "There was nothing else going through my mind. Just get the out at home."
And the game turned.
"That absolutely pumped us up," Dyson said. "We’re trying to defend our home turf. They brought their crowd with them, but we’re not going to back down even though we know how good those guys can be."
Robinson Cano started the bottom of the inning with a double over Pillar’s head in center. Toronto stayed with starter Joe Biagini, who retired Nelson Cruz on a grounder before walking Seager on four pitches.
Valencia tied the game with single through the left side that also moved Seager to third. Another walk, to Mike Zunino, loaded the bases with one out.
The Blue Jays chose to shorten their infield, but Dyson punched a single to center. Seager scored easily, but Valencia was thrown out at the plate after running through a stop sign by third-base coach Manny Acta.
The Mariners settled for two runs in the inning and a 3-2 lead.
Nick Vincent pitched around two singles in a scoreless eighth before the Mariners initially missed a chance to extend the lead later in the inning after Ben Gamel led off with a double.
Gamel was thrown out at third Guillermo Heredia’s attempted sacrifice bunt. Heredia moved to second on Cano’s grounder to third. After an intentional walk to Cruz, Seager drove an RBI single to left.
That provided Diaz with a two-run cushion, and he blew through the Blue Jays in the ninth on 12 pitches, including two strikeouts, for his 10th save.
PLAY OF THE GAME: Acta chose to wave home Cano from second base on Valencia’s one-out single to left in the seventh inning.
It was a gutsy call by Acta. Cano isn’t particularly fast, and Ezequiel Carrera fielded the ball in short left field. Cano scored the tying run.
Also notable: Valencia ran through an Acta stop sign later in the inning and was thrown out at the plate.
PLUS: Dyson and Gamel each had two hits. Gamel is batting .391 (18-for-46) in his last 12 games…the bullpen produced three scoreless innings and has allowed just one earned run over its last 17 innings…the Mariners were 4-for-9 with runners in scoring position and had five of their seven hits in their final two innings…Dyson has six of the Mariners’ 12 outfield assists.
MINUS: Cruz went 0-for-3 after missing the two previous games because of a strained right calf muscle…Zunino had a passed ball for a second straight game.
STAT PACK: When the Blue Jays come to Safeco Field, their fans from western Canada have a history of taking over the ballpark. Even so, the Mariners hold a 22-11 edge at home since the start of the 2007 season.
QUOTABLE: Servais on Diaz: "Once you get them swinging at 100, they’re going to swing over the top of that slider."
SHORT HOPS: Cloyd got his first victory in more than four years — his last one was June 6, 2013 when he was pitching for Philadelphia against Milwaukee. He was pitching at Somerset in the independent Atlantic League when the Mariners signed him on May 12 and sent him to Triple-A Tacoma. He returned to the big leagues on June 2 but did not pitch until Friday night.
ON DECK: The Mariners and Blue Jays continue their three-game series at 7:10 p.m. Saturday at Safeco Field. Left-hander Ariel Miranda (3-2 with a 3.74 ERA) will oppose Toronto right-hander Marcus Stroman (6-2, 3.25).
The game can be seen on Root Sports Northwest and heard on 710 ESPN and the Mariners Radio Network.
Bob Dutton: @TNT_Mariners