Say whatever you will about going for a bunt in baseball in this day and age.
But Seattle Mariners manager Scott Servais seemed to finally have enough. They tried it the new-age way after their first three leadoff doubles and they were going old school when Dee Gordon led off the eighth with another double.
Then, finally, a run.
Jean Segura bunted and former Mariner Logan Morrison’s throw to first sailed wide and into right field, allowing Gordon to saunter home and the Mariners finally brought in a runner from scoring position for what seemed like the first time in years.
And that was all they needed thanks to their best pitcher since May 3.
Wade LeBlanc pitched six scoreless innings and allowed just three hits in the Mariners’ 1-0 win over the Minnesota Twins in their one-game stop in Minneapolis on Monday, in a makeup of their snowed-out game there last month. The Mariners' bullpen of James Pazos, Nick Vincent and Edwin Diaz locked down the final three innings, even with Pazos batting food poisoning.
More on that later.
But Gordon wanted to make sure everyone was talking about LeBlanc.
"Wade LeBlanc was outstanding tonight," Mariners manager Scott Servais told reporters afterward. "He really kept them off balance all night. Really good game plan, but he stuck to it."
The Mariners were bolting out of Minneapolis after arriving hours earlier from Detroit, then sitting through almost two hours of a rain delay before heading back for Seattle.
We'll see how much sleep they get.
But maybe a little more thanks to Wade LeBlank.
Here’s how the 33-year-old left-hander has performed since the Mariners (23-17) converted him from long reliever, signed in the offseason after the New York Yankees didn’t even want him on a minor league contract:
Innings pitched: 15
Runs allowed: 2
This is a lot more than the Mariners were asking for when they asked him to start in the place of disabled-list bound Erasmo Ramirez on May 3.
"We got a little bit more than we were hoping to get out of him, which was great," Servais said. "Just an awesome job."
Yeah, left-hander James Paxton pitched a no-hitter and was announced as the American League co-player of the week on Monday. But no getting past LeBlanc’s performances – even if his fastball travels about 10 mph slower than Paxton’s.
"Every pitch has to mean something, especially for a guy like me," LeBlanc said.
"There were a lot of things I could get better at. But just have to continue to be aggressive and trust the defense."
The Mariners will take it.
Except their lineup didn’t provide him any run support – despite plenty of chances.
Their work with runners in scoring position is becoming a concerning trend. They had leadoff doubles in the third, fifth, sixth and eighth innings and didn’t move a runner over until Jean Segura bunted in that eighth with Gordon at second.
Morrison, the Twins’ first baseman, fielded it cleanly, looked to third and then turned to first before it sailed into right field and allowed Gordon to score, unearned.
"We struggled moving runners today," Servais said. "You got to play the little game every once in a while and our guys got it done tonight."
Segura reached second – still no outs – but he was left stranded at third by the end of the inning.
The Mariners went 1-for-13 with runners in scoring position in the game (and, remember, that one was handed to them).
It probably didn't help that this was the Mariners' first game without No. 3 hitter Robinson Cano, who officially headed to the 10-day disabled list on Monday with a fractured bone in his hand.
"You got to give their pitcher (Jake Odorizzi) a lot of credit. He threw really well," Servais said. "He expanded and then went with a lot of high fastballs and the split-finger. We didn't get much going offensively."
Segura led off with a double in the sixth inning, but Mitch Haniger flew out before Kyle Seager appeared to have the go-ahead hit.
Except Seager's screaming line drive up the middle ricocheted off of Twins starter Jake Odorizzi’s backside and went right to shortstop Ehire Adrianza, who stepped on second base to get Cruz for the force out.
But Ryon Healy then struck out swinging to end the threat – and still no Mariners runs.
Just like the third inning, when Ben Gamel led off with a double. And just like the fifth after Healy’s leadoff double.
The Mariners have had 80 chances with runners in scoring position their past eight games and have cashed in 13 times (.163 batting average). And that’s after they had the fourth-best RISP average in the majors through May 6 (.283).
They got away with that on Monday.
Because after LeBlanc finished his sixth inning left-hander James Pazos pitched a scoreless seventh, despite a double.
Nick Vincent pitched a clean eighth, with the Mariners going to him instead of struggling right-hander Juan Nicasio as their set-up reliever.
And Edwin Diaz closed it out, earning his first save since May 3 against the Athletics. That’s his 14th save this year, which ties him with the Rockies’ Wade Davis for most in the major leagues.
Here’s three takeaways:
Let-go to LeBlank
The New York Yankees released Wade LeBlanc late in spring training, cutting ties with his minor league contract and LeBlanc didn’t know what was next.
A few hours later, the Mariners came calling. General manager Jerry Dipoto not only wanted him back in Seattle, they wanted him on a major-league contract.
What a turnaround.
Then LeBlanc entered their rotation as seemingly a spot starter with Erasmo Ramirez heading to the DL.
He’s pitched 15 innings and allowed one run in three starts. He’s not overpowering batters by any means but he doesn’t beat himself. He’s walked just one batter.
"I think being a bullpen guy for a while, it gets you used to being back and forth, waiting and not necessarily having a route you go to when you know you're starting a game," LeBlanc said. "I think it was a blessing in disguise to come out of the bullpen and get used to that."
The Mariners won’t win many games going 1-for-13 with runners in scoring position.
They’ve gone from excelling with runners on base to struggling in their past eight games, batting .162 with runners at second or third.
That becomes more of a concern without Robinson Cano for what will likely be close to two months.
With right-hander Juan Nicasio struggling since the calendar turned to May, the Mariners gave him a break and instead turned to right-hander Nick Vincent on Monday.
That’s nothing new for Vincent, who had 29 holds last season in that position (second-most in the major leagues). He sat the Twins down in order.
This is a much different look than how the Mariners began the season, especially with James Pazos continuing to deliver. Pazos, a left-hander, has now pitched 13 1/3 scoreless innings over his past 12 outings dating back to April 10, lowering his ERA from 9.00 to 1.17.
Apparently, Servais said Pazos had been sick with food poisoning entering the game and they were unsure if he'd be available.
"The job that James Pazos did tonight — James Pazos was really sick," Servais said. "He was throwing up all day. I didn’t know if he would be available and he went out and got through the seventh and he came right back in and went right to the bathroom.
"Says a lot. Guys stepping up like that when they don’t feel like they are on top of their game — that says a lot."
Enough, along with his big performances, to warrant more leverage situations late in games.
"James Pazos has earned the right to start pitching in the back end," Servais said. "He's been one of our most dominant guys. He has found something with his delivery and he's going right after them with his fastball and that fastball has a lot of life. More importantly, I like the way he's wired. Tonight, the effor the gave says a lot about him."
And then Edwin Diaz got back to being Edwin Diaz, earning his 14th save with three strikeouts in the ninth inning. Diaz hadn’t earned a save since May 3 against the Athletics – he blew a save against the Angels before the Mariners came back to win in extra innings and then he pitched a scoreless inning against the Blue Jays last week.
Diaz has struck out each of the past six batters he’s faced.
Just watch this play between Triple-A Tacoma and Sacramento. Nick Vincej and Taylor Motter turning an incredible double play: