So far, this “No Sucking in September” campaign is off to a great start at Safeco Field.
The Mariners completed a three-game sweep Sunday over the Oakland Athletics with a 10-2 romp behind a dominant performance from lefty Andrew Albers and a balanced attack that produced 17 hits.
The “No Sucking” campaign is an environmental move in which plastic straws are no longer distributed with beverages but, hey, three straight victories this weekend effectively revived the Mariners’ flagging postseason hopes.
“We’re just focusing on one day at a time,” right fielder Mitch Haniger insisted, “one game at a time. This was a big series and a big win today. Now, we’re just focusing on (Monday) and taking it one game at a time against Houston.”
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Yep, it’s about to get tougher. First-place Houston, bolstered by the recent addition of Justin Verlander, arrives Monday for three games. Then three games next weekend against the surging Los Angeles Angels.
Sunday’s victory boosted the Mariners back over .500 at 69-68 and pulled them to within 2-1/2 games of Minnesota on the race for the American League’s final wild-card berth.
It all started with Albers, who retired the first 11 before Ryon Healy worked a two-out walk in the fourth inning.
Albers (3-1) lost his no-hitter, and his shutout, when Matt Olson led off the sixth inning with a slicing drive that cleared the left-field wall. That cut the Mariners’ lead to 3-1.
“I wasn’t going to finish the game,” Albers said, “but you know what’s going on. I give up a lot of hits, so I usually don’t get that far into a game where I haven’t given up a hit yet.
“I wouldn’t have liked to give it up the way I did but, at the same time, you’re in the sixth inning. It’s a 3-0 game. I feel the worst thing I can do there is walk a guy. I’m going to continue to attack.”
Albers retired the next three hitters, but that pushed his pitch count to 101. His day was done. The Mariners’ attack, though, was just getting started. They scored seven runs over their final three innings.
Haniger and Robinson Cano each had four hits, including a homer. Jean Segura continued his recent revival with three hits and scored three runs. Backup catcher Chooch Ruiz had a homer before igniting a five-run eighth with a leadoff double.
One point not to overlook: Nick Vincent stranded two inherited runners after entering a 5-2 game with no outs in the eighth inning. His ERA is down to 1.87.
The Mariners closed the game with a battery of reliever Shae Simmons and catcher Mike Marjama.
That was notable in that Simmons made his season debut after spending the entire season on disabled list because of a strained elbow. Marjama was making his big-league debut.
Simmons is the 40th different pitcher used this season by the Mariners, which ties the MLB record set by Texas in 2014. The Mariners, overall, have used a franchise-record 61 players.
“We have accomplished the unbelievable feat of using 40 pitchers in a season,” manager Scott Servais noted wryly. “A lot of different ways to get here, but we’re a game over .500 with a couple of big series coming up.”
Enough in the face: Haniger got five hits Sunday — if you count the one in the face. Yep, he got hit in the face again. This time it was on a pickoff throw to first base by Oakland reliever Liam Hendriks in the fifth inning.
Haniger was diving back to the base when the ball hit him on the right side of the chin. Haniger got up and made it to second on the error and remained in the game after a brief examination by trainer Rick Griffin.
“Just unlucky I guess,” Haniger said. “A pickoff is the last place you think it would happen. It’s fine.”
The Athletics then picked off Haniger when he broke too early for third base on an attempted steal. (Haniger hit a homer in his next at-bat and finished 4-for-5. He is 10-for-17 in his last three games.)
Haniger missed 18 games after suffering a facial laceration July 29 when hit on the left side of the face on a pitch from Jacob deGrom of the New York Mets.
Gamel in a slide: While Haniger shows signs of emerging from an extended slump, left fielder Ben Gamel remains in a nose-dive. Gamel went hitless in five at-bats with two strikeouts and is 5-for-42 over his last 12 games.
Gamel had two-out RBI opportunities in his first two at-bats. He grounded out to second with runners at first and third in the first inning, and he hit a routine fly to center with runners at second and third in the third inning.
Quick hands: First-base coach Casey Candaele showed remarkable quickness on a foul line drive by Ruiz in the fourth inning.
Candaele got his hands up in front of his face and deflected the ball with his right hand as he tumbled backward to the ground. He remained down for a long second, as Griffin emerged from the dugout, before bouncing back to his feet.
With a big smile, Candaele waved to the crowd, and the game continued.
Candaele, 56, is in his second season as the Mariners’ first-base coach. He spent nine seasons in the big leagues with three clubs as a utilityman from 1986-97.
Bob Dutton: @TNT_Mariners