Austin Nola and Ryan Court took different routes to ultimately join the Seattle Mariners, but each of their journeys to the majors lasted nearly a decade.
Nola, the 29-year-old former standout shortstop at LSU, was drafted in the fifth round by Miami in 2012, and learned to play catcher three years ago to boost his big-league value. Court, who is 31, was drafted a year earlier by Arizona out of Illinois State, and has been biding his time since, playing baseball just about everywhere.
Nola played 794 games between the minors and Arizona Fall League baseball across eight seasons before his major league debut. Court played 920 games in the minors, independent ball and the Dominican Winter League spanning nine seasons before reaching this level. Nola was promoted from Triple-A Tacoma in June, and Court was called up Friday.
So, two have these two career minor leaguers combine for six RBIs during Seattle’s 8-1 win over Detroit on Saturday afternoon at T-Mobile Park added a little something extra.
“I enjoy it, I really do, giving guys opportunities, seeing how they handle it, seeing what they can do,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said. “A lot of these guys have had a long journey to get here, and get this opportunity. It’s fun.”
Nola collected a pair of extra-base hits, including his first major league triple, and drove in three runs. Court singled in another run in his third major league at-bat, and knocked a RBI ground-rule double to right center in his fifth that scored two more.
“To see those guys have success … that’s guys coming together and doing things the right way,” Mariners starter Marco Gonzales said. “It’s really good to see.”
The Mariners (45-63) did plenty more on offense on their way to posting four consecutive wins for the first time since their historic 13-2 start in April.
“You’re going to have ebbs and flows throughout the season,” Servais said. “This is all about the players. I tip my hat. I’m really happy with our group, and the fact that they’re working as hard as they are. They’re enjoying each other. We’re 15-20 games under .500 and we come to work every day and expect good things to happen. That’s what I’m most happy about. These guys are getting rewarded for the time and effort they’re putting in.”
After being held hitless the first time through the batting order, Seattle grabbed the definitive lead in the third, when Nola’s triple to the gap in right center plated Omar Narvaez and Tim Beckham, who each singled, to make it 2-1.
“It’s amazing the transformation he’s made in his offense game, and doing what he’s doing at this level, based on everything he’s been through in his career,” Servais said of Nola. “It’s awesome to see. I’m really happy for him. And he’s not backing off. He’s staying with the program, he works as hard as anybody we’ve got.”
“I’m just taking it one day at a time, honestly,” Nola said. “I really have a lot of good people helping me out. ... I’m just trying to get my work in every day and let the results take care of themselves.”
Court then singled back up the middle to score Nola with his first big-league hit, earning a standing ovation from the 27,140 in attendance.
“That was cool,” Court said. “I saw the video board. I think that’s when it set in a little bit, the emotional wave of, ‘You did it. First hit.’ The crowd has been awesome, too. Yesterday I got my first at-bat, and the standing ovation, I got chills walking to the box. I love Seattle. It’s been awesome.”
Beckham hit the first of his two doubles in the fifth, scoring Mallex Smith, who singled three batters earlier. And, in the seventh, the Mariners tacked on four more runs. Narvaez singled and Beckham doubled again to open the frame, before a Daniel Vogelbach bloop single to shallow center drove in Narvaez.
Beckham then scored on Nola’s double, and pinch runner Kristopher Negron — Vogelbach exited with what seems to be a minor elbow injury after getting hit by a pitch — and Nola each crossed on Court’s RBI double, which again drew excitement from the crowd.
“The day he had was phenomenal,” Nola said of Court. “I couldn’t be more happy for him. I can’t wait to talk to him about it.”
The Mariners logged a season-high 16 hits in their final 29 at-bats from the fourth inning on, lifting Gonzales (12-8, 4.21 ERA) to his seventh win in nine starts. Gonzales is 7-2 since his troublesome six-game losing streak between May and June. Saturday, he matched a season-low, allowing just one earned run on six hits in seven complete innings, and didn’t walk a batter while striking out eight.
“I think just trying to keep things simple,” Gonzales said. “Just trying to throw a lot of strikes, keep us close in the ballgame and when we get a lead protect it. If you complicate it any more than that, I think you’re doing too much.”
Detroit scored its only run in the third, when JaCoby Jones doubled with one out, and promptly scored on a Niko Goodrum single. Gonzales retired 10 of the final 11 batters he faced — only broken up when Nicholas Castellanos reached on a Kyle Seager throwing error in the sixth.
“Marco has a tendency to (settle in later in games),” Servais said. “Once he smells the finish line, so to speak, or sees the light at the end of the tunnel, he puts his foot on the gas pedal. He’s always done that since he’s been here. He can certainly smell wins. When we get a lead, he’s a guy you want out there.
“He makes pitches, he stays aggressive. He’s going to give up hits. That’s part of it, but the double plays were big to kind of keep the game moving along, and keep his pitch count in check heading into the seventh inning, and he finished strong.”
Making his second appearance with Seattle, reliever Matt Magill worked a scoreless eighth with a strikeout. Matt Carasiti allowed a leadoff single in the ninth before Beckham, currently functioning as a fill-in outfielder, made a shoestring catch in left and doubled off the runner at first.
Saturday marked the first game this season that did not include a home run by the Mariners or their opponent. The 107-game streak entering the day was the longest in major league history.