Seattle Mariners

Mariners scrape just enough offense, but attribute another close win to lock-down pitching

Fans cheer as Seattle Mariners Ryon Healy (27) is greeted by Dee Gordon, center, after Healy hit a solo home run against the San Francisco Giants during the second inning of a baseball game, Wednesday, July 25, 2018, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
Fans cheer as Seattle Mariners Ryon Healy (27) is greeted by Dee Gordon, center, after Healy hit a solo home run against the San Francisco Giants during the second inning of a baseball game, Wednesday, July 25, 2018, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren) AP

Even when the Seattle Mariners aren’t hitting – as in about the entirety of this month – their athletic lineup gives them chances to score in ways they haven’t had in years past.

On Wednesday, small ball, and not long ball, produced a 3-2 victory over the San Francisco Giants at Safeco Field.

If Mariners manager Scott Servais had his way, he would steer clear of sacrifice bunts, but with this lineup it can be a weapon such as in the bottom of the eighth when it led to the go-ahead run. Dee Gordon almost beat it out for a single, and it moved Guillermo Heredia to second after a leadoff walk.

Jean Segura then lined a single to make it 3-2, Mariners.

Yes, another one-run victory for the Mariners (61-41). That’s their major-league leading 27th one-run win this year, which is a big reason why the Mariners have a plus-one run season differential with 61 victories.

“We got to get it going offensively,” Servais said. “But at the end of the day it’s plus-one. We won the game by one and that’s the goal every day.”

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-partner="tweetdeck"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Nice afternoon for some yard work, eh <a href="">@rchealy25</a>? <a href=""></a></p>&mdash; Seattle Mariners (@Mariners) <a href="">July 25, 2018</a></blockquote> <script async src="" charset="utf-8"></script>

Really, though, attribute this to more dominant Mariners pitching, this time by Mike Leake and Edwin Diaz. The Mariners are 43-12 when they score four or more runs in a game and improved to 18-29 when they score three or fewer.

Seattle will take runs however it can right now, especially with the middle of their lineup struggling like it is.

Nelson Cruz went 0-for-3 and is batting .153 (9-for-59) in July with one home run. He hit .326 with 11 homers in June.

Mitch Haniger is batting .215 (11-for-51) in July with one home run. So there’s your No. 3 and 4 hitters.

That’s left them scrambling for more creative ways to score.

“We are a team, we all have to contribute to pull your part and create a big run and create momentum,” Segura said. “Just right now we’re not doing it. We’re waiting for something big to happen and it seems like, ‘OK, one or two runs and you’re stuck there. We have to continue to do the best we can to score some runs.”

Take the first inning of this one.

Seattle Mariners right fielder Mitch Haniger makes a running catch of a fly ball hit by San Francisco Giants’ Alen Hanson during the fourth inning of a baseball game, Wednesday, July 25, 2018, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren) Ted S. Warren AP

Gordon almost never draws a walk (he has six in 380 at-bats), but Giants pitcher Derek Holland took that out of his hands and hit him with a pitch. Gordon then stole second base and reached third when catcher Nick Hundley’s throw went into center field.

Segura scored him on a sacrifice fly. So no hits, but one run.

“You go through these stretches throughout the course of the season,” Servais said. “It’s tough. It’s not like these guys aren’t trying and trying to make adjustments and whatnot. But it’s just the ball games we’re playing right now.”

At least there’s one batter heating up – Ryon Healy.

He carried the Mariners’ in their Sunday win over the White Sox with two three-run homers among three hits. He added his 21st homer of the season with a 420-foot bomb in the second inning of this one.

“I kind of altered my routine a little bit,” Healy said. “I’m not going to go through it all with you, but just trying to see a little bit more velo before the game, get my eyes trained and warmed up and try to be on time, at least with the fastball, and then go from there.”

Only Cruz (22) has more homers for the Mariners this season than Healy.

“The home run has not been a big part of our game outside of Ryon Healy,” Servais said. “But other than that it’s been trying to scratch and get guys on base and try to move them over and hopefully get a single or a double to get them in.

“We’ve executed late in games, though last night we didn’t. Today we did, but it still takes getting a big hit.”

Healy’s homer gave starter Leake a 2-0 cushion.

Leake sat 14 consecutive Giants batters down in one stretch. Mariners pitching continues to mask the problem of a sleeping Mariners offense, with the Mariners’ last win on Sunday coming after Marco Gonzales had a no-hitter going until one out in the sixth inning.

Leake had allowed one hit Wednesday until Hunter Pence reached on Segura’s error at shortstop and Nick Hundley followed with a single.

Steven Duggar advanced them to second and third with one out before Leake really dialed in. He struck out Alen Hanson on an 80-mph slider and then had Andrew McCutchen swinging through a 3-2 cutter off the plate away.

That will do it.

Seattle Mariners starting pitcher Mike Leake, left, forces out San Francisco Giants’ Steven Duggar at first base during the sixth inning of a baseball game, Wednesday, July 25, 2018, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren) Ted S. Warren AP

“He needed the punch outs and he got them,” Servais said. “Mike Leake is a pro. He really understands pitching in game situations.”

Leake pitched 6 1/3 innings in this one and allowed four hits and two runs on 78 pitches. He said it helped that he is used to facing these hitters, having spent much of his career in the National League with the Reds and Cardinals, as well as part of a season with the Giants in 2015.

“Yeah, it does,” Leake said. “Especially being able to know their swing paths and what they tend to hit and not hit.”

But then the Mariners defense had a minor collapse, and it cost them in the seventh.

Gordon’s throwing error created a run for the second consecutive game, after his errant throw allowed the go-ahead run to score in the ninth inning of Tuesday’s loss. He corralled a redirected ground ball off of Healy in this one, but his throw rolled into the Mariners’ dugout trying to get it to Leake covering first base.

So Brandon Belt went to second base and two batters later Brandon Crawford doubled on a soft fly ball into left field that deflected off of sliding Denard Span’s glove to cut the lead to 2-1.

But you won’t hear Servais telling Gordon not to try to make those plays.

“I like the way Dee Gordon plays,” Servais said before pausing. “I think our fans do, too. I know everybody in this clubhouse does. With the diving plays and the acrobatic, athletic things he can do on a baseball field, I never want to limit players. Dee Gordon is Dee Gordon because of those types of things. That’s how we play, that’s how he plays. He’s a leader in our clubhouse and he’s going to continue to be.

“I have no problem with how Dee Gordon plays.”

Juan Nicasio relieved Leake and struck out Pablo Sandoval for the second out, but Pence followed with a broken-bat single to right field where Haniger was waiting.

But Haniger didn’t field it cleanly and Crawford scored from second to tie the game, 2-2.

Alex Colome pitched a clean eighth inning and Diaz earned his 38th save of the season by striking out the side in the bottom of the ninth.

“Every time we go out there and do the best we can to continue to bring that energy – sometimes it’s just going to be like this,” Segura said. “There’s going to be those games you’re dragging. There’s going to be those games down the stretch, and one of the teams is going to separate and get to the playoffs. These are the kinds of games you need to win to get to the playoffs.”

TJ Cotterill: 253-597-8677; Twitter: @TJCotterill