Viewed solely as a salvage operation, this was an undeniable success. Let’s leave it at that.
The Mariners held on (barely) Wednesday afternoon to beat Baltimore 7-6 at Safeco Field. In doing so, they won the series, climbed back to .500 and flushed away much of the sour taste still lingering from a recent five-game skid.
“That means a lot, especially after (four losses) against the Angels,” right fielder Leonys Martin said. “This shows we can do it. We just have to concentrate on every game right now and forget about what happened with other teams.
“Just play the game to the end.”
It went right to the end before Marc Rzepczynski, after replacing an ineffective Edwin Diaz, struck out Chris Davis with the bases loaded on three pitches.
“I threw a pitch right down the middle on 0-2,” Rzepczynski said, “which I didn’t mean to do. I lucked out there. It’s a huge win.”
First baseman Yonder Alonso also made an impact for the first time since arriving from Oakland in a Aug. 6 trade for outfielder Boog Powell. Alonso had three hits, including a two-run homer and a tie-breaking RBI single.
The Mariners survived a Diaz meltdown when when he nearly let a three-run lead slip away without allowing a hit. Three walks and two hit batters pulled the Orioles within one run with the bases still loaded.
“I lost my mechanics today,” Diaz said. “I was rushing too much today, pulling my shoulder. I think I was thinking too much. I made a couple of good pitches, but then I got back to rushing, rushing, rushing.
“That cost me two runs, and I almost blew the game.”
And yet, even with the wild ending, what stood out was a rotation that continues to throb like a sore tooth. This was Marco Gonzales’ third start since arriving in a July 21 trade from St. Louis, and he has yet to make it through the fifth inning.
“I still really like his stuff,” manager Scott Servais said. “But he’s going to have to do a better job of navigating to get deep into games. You look when he goes out for the fifth, you think he’s in great shape. Then it happens rather quickly.”
Gonzales spit back a two-run lead in the fifth inning by allowing five straight one-out hits, which accounted for three Baltimore runs. Tony Zych got the final two outs before the Mariners struck back against Orioles starter Ubaldo Jimenez.
“It’s making the adjustment to pitching in the big leagues,” Gonzales said. “After a couple of times through the lineup, they’re making adjustments on me. I’m making adjustments on them.
“Right now, I’m just on the other side of that chess match. It’s a minor adjustment here or there. Nothing that I’m too worried about.”
It’s too early to reach a conclusions on Gonzales. For one thing, three starts is just three starts. But the bigger issue is he underwent Tommy John surgery in April 2016 to rebuild his elbow. This is his first season back.
Many pitchers don’t find their form until their second year. By that measure, Gonzales, who has thrown 102 1/3 innings in the majors and minors, is ahead of schedule.
Right now, though, he’s not helping an overworked bullpen.
“He’s going to be in our rotation,” Servais said. “We’ll go forward with him. He’ll continue to learn and get better.”
▪ Martin to the rescue: Before Rzepczynski bailed out Diaz, Martin made a sparkling catch in right-center field on a drive by Manny Machado with no outs and the bases loaded after three walks.
Martin charged over from right field and made a sliding backhanded catch that limited the play to one run on a sacrifice fly. If the ball gets past Martin, it’s at least two runs and probably three.
Center fielder Jarrod Dyson might normally have been able to make the play, but he is nursing a sore groin that clearly affected his range.
“Dyson doesn’t feel really good right now,” Martin said. “So it was time for me to take care of my guy. It was a tough ball, but the angle was a little bit easier for me.”
Martin also had a home run in the seventh inning that, at the time, extended the Mariners’ lead to 7-4. It turned out to be the winning run.
▪ Back to .500: The victory pulled the Mariners back to .500 at 61-61 and kept them 1 1/2 games behind the Los Angeles Angels in the race for the American League’s final wild-card berth.
“Does my hair look like that?” Servais asked one grizzled (yet dashing) reporter sporting gray hair. “Nice to get the series win. That’s the goal after a rough weekend against the Angels.
The Mariners have an open date Thursday before starting a 12-game trip through four cities.
▪ More like it: Alonso was 5-for-26 in his first seven games for the Mariners before breaking out Wednesday with three hits in four at-bats.
“I’ve got to give a lot of credit to the staff,” he said. “I’ve been coming in here early and working to make a few adjustments on things they’ve been noticing.”
Alonso hit a two-run homer in the fourth inning, which gave the Mariners a 3-1 lead. It was his 23rd homer of the season but his first with the Mariners.
After Baltimore took a 4-3 lead in the fifth, Alonso fueled a three-run answer with an RBI single that broke a 4-4 tie. He also had a single in the seventh inning.
“I think he’s been swinging the bat great for the last three or four days,” Servais said. “It’s been much better. He’s been much more aggressive. He looks like the guy we saw earlier in the year when he was with Oakland.”
Bob Dutton: @TNT_Mariners