The Mariners had left 12 runners on base before Jean Segura stepped into the batter’s box in the top of the ninth inning, with Andrew Romine at third base and Dee Gordon at second.
“We were due,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said. “We were really due to put a rally together.”
It was a remark that was borne out of five games of frustration from dominant starting pitching against the Athletics and Astros. The Mariners had scored six runs in those five games.
And they had plenty of chances to do a lot of damage in Friday’s game in Texas against the Rangers without ever breaking the scoreboard. Until that ninth inning.
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Segura dropped a go-ahead two-run double as the busted into second base to break the tie, and the Mariners added insurance on top of that with run-scoring hits from Kyle Seager and Mitch Haniger in their 6-2 win over the Rangers to halt a three-game losing skid.
It reminded the Mariners that, oh yeah, their offense actually is pretty good.
“We needed to get it rolling again,” Servais said. “And a lot of guys contributed.”
The Mariners’ offense had stalled after the Rangers took a 2-1 lead with a pair of runs against Felix Hernandez in the sixth inning.
Hernandez allowed just four hits in 5 1/3 innings, but two of them came in that two-run sixth and he was pulled after he plunked friend/enemy/former teammate Adrian Beltre with a changeup.
So it was still 2-1 with two outs in the top of the eighth inning when Haniger sent a 92-mph cutter on a 2-1 pitch over the center-field wall for the tying home run.
Haniger was 3-for-4 with a double and the home run. Though he was caught stealing third base after his leadoff double in the second.
“Big home run by Haniger,” Servais said. “Really a big night. Nice to see him bounce back after the miscue on the bases earlier there.”
The Mariners seemed to find answers to all their offensive and defensive struggles after playing four games against the Astros.
Robinson Cano might be off to one of his best starts offensively and defensively in his career. He kept the game at 2-2 heading into the ninth inning when he dived to his left to stab a hard-hit shot from Beltre. He quickly got up to throw to Segura for one out and Segura fired to first to complete the double play.
“Robby brought the leather tonight,” Servais said. “As Robby does, he makes it look easy and those plays aren’t easy.”
Mike Zunino struggled at the plate, going 0-for-5 with four strikeouts in his first game of the season after missing the first 17 with a strained oblique. He left six runners on base.
But Servais praised what Zunino brought behind the plate.
“Really nice job behind the plate,” Servais said. “It’s the little things that don’t show up in the box score. It’s the framing of the pitches, the game-calling. The bat, he needs to get his timing going, but the only way to do that is to play. But a really nice job behind the plate.”
KING AGAIN: Felix was dealing, getting ahead in counts, keeping his pitch count low and getting a lot of movement on his secondary pitches.
He had five strikeouts and had allowed just two hits in five innings entering the sixth, but then former Mariner Shin-Soo Choo led off with a double and scored on Nomar Mazara’s one-out single before Hernandez plunked Beltre. So the Mariners turned to left-hander Marc Rzepcynski to face the left-handed Joey Gallo.
“Felix just lost the command,” Servais said. “But happy with the way Felix is throwing the ball. He got a lot more first-pitch strikes tonight. He was ahead in the count, which was good to see and he kept his pitch count in a pretty good spot. I just thought it was time to go to the bullpen when we did.”
Rzepcynski did allow a Gallo hit, but then got an out before Nick Vincent struck out each of the four batters he faced. Vincent, Juan Nicasio and Edwin Diaz combined to allow one hit and one walk in 3 1/3 innings of relief.
In his past three starts, Hernandez has pitche at least 5 1/3 innings and allowed three earned runs or fewer in each.
DEE-FENCE: Servais had a sit-down meeting with Dee Gordon before the Rangers’ game.
“He’s got to have fun,” Servais said.
“Sit there, react and don’t think. Any ball hit in the air just go catch them all. He has that kind of speed that he almost can.”
Gordon was upset with his defensive play in center field the past few games of the Astros’ series and he made up for it on Friday. Gordon dived to his left and snagged a ball hit to the gap with two outs in the fifth inning.
Keep in mind, Gordon is a former Gold Glove second baseman. He’s not used to making a lot of those running plays to his left.
Gordon was also 2-for-4 at the plate with a double and two runs scored.
“Really exciting player, fun to watch,” Servais said. “I knew he wasn’t happy with the way he played center field the past few games.
“He’s a fun guy to watch and you certainly feel it in the dugout when he gets our team going.”
EXTREME SHIFT: Joey Gallo is essentially the face of baseball’s launch-angle movement.
He doesn’t care about defensive shifts. He just wants to hit the ball in the air hard and a long ways. So the Mariners employed their most extreme shift of the season.
Only Guillermo Heredia was on the left side of the field. And even he was shaded more toward center. The Mariners had six players on the right side of the field, with third baseman Kyle Seager playing just inside second base, first baseman Daniel Vogelbach almost straddling the foul line behind the bag, Robinson Cano in shallow right, also near the line, and shortstop Jean Segura playing in the grass just past the infield dirt.
They basically dared him to hit the ball to the left side. And if he did, fine. At least he’s not hitting the ball hard somewhere else.
“Different teams have done a lot of different things with Joey Gallo,” Servais said. “He has a lot of power and he doesn’t hit a lot of balls to the left side of the field. We came up with our guys and Emanuel Sifuentes, out advance scout, and Manny (Acta) thought we should give this a shot. Made sense today and we put it in play.
In 2017 Gallo hit .376 pulling the ball and .419 when he hit it to center, getting 36 of his home runs to center or right field. He hit .283 hitting to left field with five home runs.
He had just 15 total hits to left field last season and 78 to right or center. Gallo also had just 10 hits on ground balls last season (batting .143) wile e had 32 line-drive hits (batting .711) and 51 hits on fly balls (batting .375).
PLAY OF THE GAME: Mitch Haniger’s game-tying home run in the top of the eighth inning. The Mariners needed a spark to their offense and Haniger provided with his team-high fifth homer of the season.
Top pitcher:Nick Vincent bridged the gap in the bullpen with four strikeouts. He faced just four batters.
It was a bounce-back appearance for him. He allowed three hits and an earned run while getting just one out in his last appearance on Wednesday against the Astros.
Top hitter:Mitch Haniger not only provided the game-tying home run, but he also had and RBI single and he hit a double earlier in the game, except that his base-running mistake erased it.
But you could also make a case for Jean Segura, who provided the clutch two-run go-ahead double to get the Mariners’ going in the ninth inning. Segura was 3-for-5.
And Nelson Cruz, despite still very hobbled by his ankle and quad injuries, was 2-for-4 with a pair of doubles.
Of course Felix Hernandez hit Adrian Beltre with a pitch.
“It was a changeup and it just got away,” Hernandez said. “I should not have thrown that pitch – I should have got him out with another ground ball to third.
“He told me when I hit him, ‘This is the only chance I’ve got to get on base. … It’s fun every time I face Belly.”