Mariners Insider Blog

Takeaways: Unexpected arms, timely hits carry Mariners past Blue Jays

Robinson Cano easily scored the tying run in the seventh inning after being waved home by third-base coach Manny Acta.
Robinson Cano easily scored the tying run in the seventh inning after being waved home by third-base coach Manny Acta. AP

It shouldn’t be a surprise, at this point, when rookie right-hander Sam Gaviglio provides the Mariners with a chance to win even though he doesn’t light up the radar gun or dazzle in an eye-test evaluation.

That suggests Gaviglio succeeds through an ability to pitch rather than throw.

It happened again Friday night when Gaviglio held the Toronto Blue Jays to one earned run in six innings before the Mariners rallied for a 4-2 victory at Safeco Field.

Sure, the Mariners ran a near-textbook relay play from the outfield to cut down a run at the plate. And they erased a one-run deficit by scoring two runs in the seventh inning before adding a key insurance run in the eighth.

Credit Danny Valencia, Jarrod Dyson and Kyle Seager with clutch RBI singles.

But it doesn’t matter if Gaviglio doesn’t muffle the Blue Jays’ potent attack.

"That’s really what he’s done for us since day one when he got here," manager Scott Servais said. "He hasn’t gotten over-amped and let it get away from him. He’s kept things in check and given us a chance to win."

Gaviglio settled for a no-decision Friday. The victory went to Tyler Cloyd, who worked a scoreless seventh inning — thanks to that relay play — in his first big-league outing since Sept. 29, 2013 while pitching for Philadelphia at Atlanta.

That’s a combined seven strong innings from one player, Gaviglio, who wasn’t even in big-league camp this spring, and another, Cloyd, who opened the year in an independent league before the Mariners purchased his contract.

General manager Jerry Dipoto insisted throughout a busy offseason that the Mariners were building much-needed organizational depth. The club’s ability to weather a bushel of injuries over the first two-plus months amounts to validation.

This was Gaviglio’s fifth start since his May 10 promotion from Triple-A Tacoma to plug a rotation hole created when Hisashi Iwakuma went to the disabled list because of shoulder inflammation.

How much longer Gaviglio remains in the rotation is anyone’s guess. The Mariners expect to get three starting pitchers back from the disabled list over the next month, and Gaviglio has options remaining.

That means, despite his 2.79 ERA, Gaviglio is likely headed back to the minors in the not-too-distant future unless he shifts to a long relief role. The same goes for veteran Christian Bergman, who also has pitched well as a fill-in.

Or maybe not. The Mariners face some tough decisions over the next few weeks.

Three takeaways from Friday’s victory:

***The .500 barrier: The Mariners are back to .500 for the third time this season. A victory Saturday would give them a winning record for the first time.

It’s not even mid-June. There are no must-win games at this point. But climbing above .500 is an important psychological barrier.

It’s a baseball axiom that until you get to .500, nothing else matters; and that once you get above .500, all things are possible. (That axiom often springs leaks late in the season but, generally through August, it’s valid.)

"The confidence is growing in our club," Servais said. "It’s been nice to see it evolve. Guys stepping up, and it’s not just one guy."

***Acta’s judgment: The Mariners trailed by one run in the seventh inning when third-base coach Manny Acta chose to wave Robinson Cano home from second base on Valencia's ground single through the left side.

Cano still isn’t moving at top speed since returning from a strained quadriceps muscle that sidelined him in late May. But Acta liked Cano’s chances against Ezequiel Carrera’s arm — and Cano scored easily.

Acta also wanted to stop Valencia at third base later in the inning on Dyson’s single, but Valencia ran through the sign and was thrown out at the plate.

***Don’t overlook Vincent: Reliever Nick Vincent drew the toughest duty of the game when summoned to pitch the eighth inning as the bridge from Gaviglio and Cloyd to closer Edwin Diaz.

Vincent faced the teeth of the Blue Jays’ lineup with a one-run lead. He surrendered a pair of singles but also struck out the side.

It’s an unfortunate reality for setup relievers that, typically, they only draw notice when they stumble.

That’s why it’s been easy to overlook Vincent, who has 22 scoreless outings in his last 23 appearances. Since April 11, he has a 1.23 ERA with 19 strikeouts in 22 innings.

Bob Dutton: @TNT_Mariners