A few hours before the game, Eric Wedge had just given a lengthy answer about the Mariners’ offense improving, when he paused, sighed a little and said without prompting: “I'd really like to get this one today. You always want to win, but this is really a separator for the road trip."
Well, his team went out and got it.
“I hope we all looked at it like that,” said shortstop Brendan Ryan of Wedge’s pregame comments. “I sincerely hope that was the case. I know it was the case for me. Two out of seven that’s not good. We want to stay there with the Rangers. We need to continue to stack Ws and this was big one.”
It was far from easy. Felix Hernandez wasn't particularly sharp. The Mariners offense wasn't particularly good against Detroit starter Rick Porcello till Miguel Olivo got things going with a solo home in the fifth inning. From there, the Mariners tied the game on Ichiro's sharp single to left (a good sign) and Justin Smoak's gork to left that scored (a much-needed break on a road trip with few of them).
“This loss is entirely on me, because of the fifth inning,” Porcello said to the Detroit media. “I should have been out of that inning with one run. All I had to do was not throw something that Ichiro could hit, and I threw a terrible backup slider that played right into his hands. If I keep my head, we probably win this game. That’s just a dumb mental mistake.”
One thing to remember in that inning is that Smoak doesn't get to the plate if Ryan doesn't drop down a perfect bunt to third, catching a napping Don Kelly at first base for a bunt single. With two outs its kind of a risky move. You better make it if you do it. Ryan made it and Smoak got an AB.
"First drag bunt single since 2009," Ryan said. "Just wanted to get on and give Smoak a chance."
Olivo then padded the lead-by ripping a two-run homer off of Joaquin Benoit in the eighth.
After a Benoit pick-off attempt to first, followed by a lengthy look at the signs, Olivo called for and was granted a timeout in mid-pitch. Benoit still threw a fastball to home. Looking to throw something different when it counted, he came back with a changeup and left it up in the zone. Olivo pounced on it, driving it to left again for his 10th homer of the season.
“When he called timeout and threw the fastball, he knew I saw the fastball coming,” Olivo said. “I knew he was going to throw something different and he hung the changeup.”
It's also important to remember that the Tigers started the inning by having lefty reliever Daniel Schlereth face Carlos Peguero. Schlereth walked the free-swinging Peguero on four-straight pitches. I didn't think it was possible for Peguero to walk on four-straight pitches. And he laid off a few close ones. I don't know if Peguero is learning or he was told to take till he got a strike.
With the Rangers losing, the Mariners are now 1.5 games back and they will open up a three-game series at home against a Los Angeles Angels team that's struggling to score runs even more than them.