What right-hander Mike Leake accomplished Friday night in his Mariners debut was all the more impressive because it didn’t start well.
Three batters into the game, and Leake had surrendered three line drives. All for hits. Oakland had one run in and runners at second and third.
"That first inning," Leake admitted, "it was like, `What am I putting myself into?’ But luckily I was able to pull it together."
Leake permitted a second run to score in the first inning on a ground out but nothing more in pitching through the seventh as the Mariners ended a five-game skid with a 3-2 victory over the Athletics at Safeco Field.
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"That’s a guy who has been around the block," catcher Mike Zunino marveled. "He knows himself. He knows what he wants to accomplish. It’s fun to be back there and call a game with him.
"He really knows what he wants to do, and he can execute it, too."
The Mariners acquired Leake on Wednesday from St. Louis in a trade for minor-league infielder Rayder Ascanio. The Cardinals also agreed to pay $17.5 million of the $55.6 million remaining in Leake’s contract, which runs through 2020.
General manager Jerry Dipoto said the trade was largely aimed toward the next few years, but the Mariners were also hoping Leake could provide a short-term boost this month to a rotation ravaged by injuries.
This was a pretty good first start.
"A big shot in the arm for us," manager Scott Servais said. "Him coming in here and doing that. Stopping a losing streak and, hopefully, getting us some momentum going forward."
The victory boosted the Mariners to 67-68 and pulled them to within 3 1/2 games of Minnesota in the race for the American League’s final wild-card berth.
Leake’s performance also enabled him to halt a personal slide. After compiling a 2.97 ERA for St. Louis in 16 starts through June, he was 1-6 with a 6.94 ERA in his last 10 starts prior to the trade.
"One thing that’s been difficult for me is being able to put guys away," he said. "The fact I was able to do that tonight was nice."
The Mariners erased a 2-0 deficit by scoring three runs in the third inning Oakland starter Sean Manaea (9-9). Zunino led off by lining a first-pitch fastball just fair over the right-field wall for his 20th homer.
Jean Segura pulled a one-out single through the left side, stole second base and scored the tying run on Mitch Haniger’s single up the middle. Haniger scored later in the inning on Kyle Seager’s sacrifice fly for a 3-2 lead.
That was it, and it was enough.
The Athletics put runners on base in all but one of Leake’s innings, but he stranded five runners and benefited from two double-play grounders.
Leake closed his night by striking out Boog Powell and Marcus Semien with the tying run in scoring position.
The last Mariners pitcher to work at least seven innings was James Paxton on July 24 in a 4-0 victory over Boston at Safeco. Nick Vincent and David Phelps closed out that victory.
This time, Marc Rzepczynski and Vincent combined on a scoreless eighth inning before Edwin Diaz worked a one-two-three ninth for his 31st save. The night , though, belonged to Leake.
"I’m excited," he said. "I might not show it, but the last few days were such a whirlwind. It’s going to probably take these next few days to interact and get to know these guy to really (be able to) show my emotions."
***Running wild: It’s usually tougher to run against a left-hander, but the Mariners stole second base easily on two occasions in their three-run third inning against an inattentive Manaea.
Segura easily beat the throw from catcher Bruce Maxwell for a steal that turned into the tying run when Haniger followed with a single. Haniger then stole second base without a throw.
Haniger moved to third later in the inning and scored on a sacrifice fly.
***Free outs: It wasn't all good on the bases.
The Mariners took their 3-2 lead on Seager’s bases-loaded sacrifice fly in the third inning when Haniger scored easily from third. But the chance for a bigger inning slipped away when Robinson Cano tried to advance from second to third.
Oakland first baseman Matt Olson cut the throw to the plate and easily nailed Cano at third base for the inning’s final out.
"We have (Danny) Valencia coming up against Manaea," Servais said, "and Valencia really hits left-handed pitching. That’s one of my pet peeves: Ending an inning on the bases. You let the pitcher off the hook."
The Mariners gave away another out in the sixth inning. After Valencia grounded a one-out single to left, he broke a few steps toward second when a pitch to Guillermo Heredia got away from Maxwell.
Valencia threw on the brakes, but Maxwell’s throw to first beat Valencia to the base. Heredia followed with a single, but the Mariners go nothing when Zunino struck out.
***Fifty extra-base hits: Seager’s two-out double in the eighth inning was his 50th extra-base hit of the season. It marked that sixth straight year that he’s reached that milestone.
The only other player in franchise history to post six or more consecutive seasons with 50 or more extra-base hits is Edgar Martinez, who had a seven-year run from 1995-2001.
Bob Dutton: @TNT_Mariners