If Wednesday’s 7-5 comeback victory over Detroit wasn't the Mariners’ best effort of the season, it’s on a short list.
Long-time ace Justin Verlander was in top form in rolling through the first 16 hitters while the Tigers built a four-run lead. The growing concern for the Mariners was simply to avoid the indignity of a no-hitter.
Then everything changed when Jarrod Dyson dragged a perfect bunt beyond Verlander’s reach for a one-out single in the sixth innings. That meant Verlander had, for the first time, to work from the stretch.
And he wasn’t the same.
The Mariners struck for three runs and knocked Verlander out of the game. They then cuffed Shane Greene, who had a 1.64 ERA in 34 previous outings, for four more runs in the seventh.
Tony Zych, Nick Vincent and Edwin Diaz closed out the victory by holding the Tigers in check over the final three innings.
Nelson Cruz said, "That was a great win."
It was. Maybe the best of the season.
Three takeaways from Wednesday’s victory:
***A longer lineup: Shortstop Jean Segura reclaimed the leadoff duty when he returned from a three-week absence because of a high ankle sprain. That meant the Mariners finally had their best lineup in place.
It took a while for the gears to mesh, but it’s already clear this has the potential to be a formidable unit. Heck, Mitch Haniger, a .319 hitter, dropped to seventh in the lineup and responded with a game-tying homer in the seventh against Greene.
Against lefty starters, Haniger will likely bat second, which means Ben Gamel, who is batting .354, will likely drop to seventh.
***Firming up the rotation: With the lineup’s tumblers finally falling into place, the Mariners are hoping the same soon happens with their rotation. On Wednesday, they finally shifted a disappointing Yovani Gallardo to the bullpen.
Andrew Moore, up from Triple-A Tacoma, will replace Gallardo as the starter for Thursday’s series finale from the Tigers. Felix Hernandez will return Friday from the disabled list to face Houston in the opener to a three-game series.
James Paxton, meanwhile, started Wednesday in search of a bounce-back effort after two poor outings. His line showed a pedestrian four runs (three earned) in 5 1/3 innings, but he probably deserved better.
Paxton termed it "a definite step in the right direction," which seems a fair assessment.
***A chance to climb above .500: The Mariners have won four straight and, at 37-37, are back at .500 for the fourth time. They have yet to climb into the black this season but have a chance to do so in Thursday’s series final against the Tigers.
It’s way too early to worry about the wild-card race — although, FYI, they’re 1 1/2 games back — but getting above .500 cracks an undeniable psychological barrier at any point in the season.
For this reason: It’s tough to view yourself as a good club when you have a losing record.
Bob Dutton: @TNT_Mariners