Newcomer Andrew Albers provided just what the Mariners needed Tuesday night and for just long enough to snap a five-game losing streak.
Albers worked five solid innings before the bullpen covered the final 12 outs in a 3-1 victory over the Baltimore Orioles at Safeco Field and, that quickly, the possibly of a wild-card berth beckons once more.
"That is the pitching plan we’ve been trying to do," manager Scott Servais said. "It starts with a guy who gets up there on a hill in the first inning, and he’s got to give you a chance. He did tonight."
Albers weathered a shaky start in which he gave up hits to five of the first eight Orioles. He limited the damage to one run in part because center fielder Jarrod Dyson completed a double play in the third inning by throwing out Manny Machado at the plate.
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"What a throw!" Albers said. "That was kind of a game-changer at that point. I was jogging to go back up (the plate), and thinking, `Ah, shoot. I just gave up another one.’
"And then, all of a sudden, you see that throw, and it’s `Oh, my gosh. Wow!’"
The Mariners tied the game in the fourth on Nelson Cruz’s RBI single before knocking out ex-teammate Wade Miley in a two-run fifth inning. A bullpen relay of Emilio Pagan, Marc Rzepczynski, Nick Vincent and Edwin Diaz took it from there.
"I think the story tonight was the bullpen," said Albers, whom the Mariners acquired Aug. 11 from Atlanta in a cash transaction. "They came in and were unbelievable. They shut down 12 in a row.
"Luckily, I was able to put us in position to have a chance to win, and they absolutely shut the door."
The victory boosted the Mariners to 60-61 and to within 1 1/2 games of the Los Angeles Angels in the race for the American League’s final wild-card berth.
"Nice ballgame," Servais said. "We need to get back to winning series, and we have an opportunity to do that now and, hopefully, end on a good note (Wednesday)."
Three takeaways from Tuesday’s victory:
***Run at your own risk: Dyson recorded his MLB-leading 11th outfield assist when he completed a double play in the third inning by throwing out at the plate.
"It was an awkward throw (after the catch)," Dyson said, "but it was perfect. I ran the ball down, did a great job with a one-hop (throw) to Zee (catcher Mike Zunino). We needed that."
Dyson’s 11 assists match a career high set last year while playing in a part-time role for Kansas City. Does anybody read scouting reports?
***More baserunning blues: The Mariners continue to run the bases at times like toddlers playing tag. They started the day rated by www.Fangraphs.com as the worst baserunning in the American League at minus-16.7 runs below average.
Guillermo Heredia showed why when, after a one-out single in the first inning, he mis-read Miley’s pickoff move. The result was a pickoff/caught stealing.
Heredia atoned somewhat in the fifth inning with a takeout slide at second base that prevented a double play and helped the Mariners score their final run. Still…he began the day at minus-1.9 runs below average on the bases.
***Pagan on point: Pagan continued his strong personal roll by retiring all six hitters in two innings, including four on strikeouts, after replacing Albers. Pagan has allowed just three earned runs in his last 29 innings since May 23.
"The game is too hard to think about that," he said. "I just try to prepare the same way each day to put myself in a good situation to succeed. Hopefully, it goes my way and, today, it did."
Tuesday marked Pagan’s fifth outing in which he pitched at least two shutout innings while recording four or more strikeouts. The only other reliever to do that is Chad Green of the New York Yankees, who also has done it five times.
"The fans this weekend were awesome," Pagan said, "and we kind of laid an egg for them (in losing four games to the Angels). Anytime we can get back on the winning train, that’s good."
Bob Dutton: @TNT_Mariners