The Mariners’ 18th extra-inning game of the year ended in dramatic fashion, with CF Austin Jackson drilling a bases-loaded single down the first-base line to beat Baltimore 6-5 Tuesday at Safeco Field (box score), their seventh win in the past 11 games.
RF Nelson Cruz was on the field long enough to hit his 34th home run of the season and extend his hitting streak to 21 games – matching the longest in baseball this year – but a bigger moment came during the sixth inning, when he had to come out of the game with neck spasms. Cruz has dealt with a similar issue before, so it doesn’t look serious, but the health of the Mariners’ best hitter (and legitimate MVP candidate) took center stage.
Taijuan Walker had quite an outing, if for no other reason than he got through six innings when it looked like he might not make it through the first. Walker got off to such a shaky start the bullpen was going two outs into the first inning. A visit from pitching coach Rick Waits after Baltimore’s Jonathan Schoop gave the Orioles a 2-0 lead seemed to settle down Walker; he retired 15 of the next 16 batters. Walker was good enough to earn a win, but the Seattle bullpen gave up back-to-back homers in the eighth to ruin that narrative.
The Mariners did enough damage in the first inning – four hits and four runs, all with two outs – that they didn’t need much else. Home runs by Cruz and Mark Trumbo put the Mariners ahead 4-2.
Seattle chased former Mariner Chris Tillman after 2.1 innings. While the M’s bats eventually cooled off, they still finished with 13 hits. 2B Robinson Cano singled on each of his first three at-bats, while Cruz hit home run No. 34. On Aug. 11 of last season, while playing for the Orioles, Cruz hit his 31st homer on the way to a career-high 40. The biggest hit of the night came from 1B Logan Morrison, who was 0 for 4 with six runners left on base before leading off the 10th with a double.
“I’ll do a massage and everything, take some medicine, and hopefully I’ll play tomorrow.” – Cruz, who left in the sixth inning due to neck spasms
Cruz leads the AL in home runs, one ahead of the Angels’ Mike Trout, putting him on pace to win back-to-back home run crowns. Last player to do that was Toronto’s Jose Bautista in 2010 and 2011. Before that? Some guy named A-Rod won three consecutive home-run crowns from 2001 through 2003 . . . CF Austin Jackson got another shot as leadoff hitter, when rookie Ketel Marte was supposed to get the night off. Jackson drove in the game-winning run . . . Tillman, who began his career in the Mariners organization before being part of the 2008 Erik Bedard trade, entered with a 6-0 record and 2.09 ERA against Seattle . . . The talk about LHP Charlie Furbush being ready to make his first rehab stint at Tacoma turned out to be premature. Furbush felt tightness in his strained biceps after his Monday bullpen session and is scheduled to make at least one more session, probably during the upcoming road trip.
RHP Hisashi Iwakuma (3-2, 4.41 ERA) takes the mound for a Wednesday afternoon 12:40 start against the Orioles. Baltimore’s Kevin Gausman (2-3, 4.56 ERA) had one of his best outings when he faced the Mariners last summer – but we’ve heard that one before.
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Both big hits in the 10th. were fair by inches. Big breaks needed.
If the M’s had a better on-base percentage, Cruz would be a Triple Crown candidate. As it is, he’s about a dozen off the RBI pace, which isn’t exactly a mountain to overcome.