3B Kyle Seager and C Mike Zunino both hit go-ahead, three-run homers as the Mariners avoided their first two-game losing streak of August by beating the Yankees 7-5 Tuesday night at Safeco Field. Zunino’s sixth-inning shot stood up as the game-winner, thanks in part to closer Edwin Diaz being available. Seattle (67-57) kept pace in the American League wild-card race, one game behind Baltimore.
Seager’s homer gave the Mariners a 3-2 lead in the fourth, and Zunino put Seattle ahead 6-5 in the sixth. But defensive replacement RF Shawn O’Malley found a way to outshine both of them.
In the seventh inning, O’Malley chased down a fly ball into foul territory and made a diving catch, falling completely into the stands on his back. The catch didn’t impact the game as did the homers, but it certainly was a highlight that won’t soon be forgotten.
Starter Cody Martin gave up four home runs, including two to Yankees phenom Gary Sanchez – the catcher the Mariners thought Jesus Montero would become. Martin, in what might be his final start of the season (provided Taijuan Walker and James Paxton finally bring some stability), allowed five runs off seven hits over 5.2 innings.
Seattle’s bullpen turned in another solid performance, with Nick Vincent, Vidal Nuno and Steve Cishek doing their parts before handing the game over to Diaz. Having taken two games off, including Sunday’s loss on a blown save by Tom Wilhelmsen, Diaz overcame a leadoff walk, a one-out single and a balk to earn his 10th save since taking over for Cishek.
Facing a starting pitcher, Michael Pineda, who was traded for Montero, the Mariners got plenty of offense. Seager took his former teammate deep. Zunino delivered off reliever Anthony Swarzak. DH Nelson Cruz added his 32nd homer with a solo shot in the eighth.
Pineda allowed five runs off eight hits over 5.1 innings – but at least he’s still in the Yankees organization.
2B Robinson Cano had three hits against his ex-mates, scoring twice. He nearly went 4-for-4, but a deep fly ball in the eighth was caught on the warning track by Yankees CF Jacoby Ellsbury.
“I guess it’s cool. I don’t know if I’ve ever had a Top 10 play (on SportsCenter). I’m just glad I made the catch. To me, I felt like I just reached out my glove over and caught it. Apparently, there was more to it.” – O’Malley
“The fastball right now is a little bit of a challenge, but he regrouped. That’s what happens when you’re 22 years old. He’ll learn.” – Manager Scott Servais on another shaky save from Diaz
The Mariners recalled OF Guillermo Heredia on Friday and placed reliever Drew Storen (shoulder inflammation) on the 15-day disabled list, temporarily leaving the bullpen with six pitchers. That should be rectified in the next day or two, with either RHP Tony Zych or RHP Evan Scribner ready to come off the 60-day disabled list . . . Yankees veteran Mark Teixeira, whose playing time has dwindled as he enters the final few weeks of his career, needs three home runs to move into a tie for 14th place on the franchise’s all-time home run list. Currently sitting at No. 14 is Cano, who hit 204 homers with New York before signing a 10-year, $240 million deal to head west . . . The presence of the Yankees and their horde of traveling reporters made the press box a bit tighter than usual. But that was nothing compared to what Wednesday might bring, as Japanese starting pitchers Hisashi Iwakuma and Masahiro Tanaka are scheduled to go at it in front of what should be dozens of reporters from that part of the world . . . The most disappointing part about this series is that Mariners fans didn’t get to give Alex Rodriguez a proper good-bye.
While the Yankees have LHP C.C. Sabathia (7-10, 4.49 ERA) to make his 26th career start against Seattle Tuesday, the Mariners have yet to announce his counterpart.. RHP Taijuan Walker, who’s made three starts at Triple-A Tacoma since his surprising demotion two weeks ago, seems like the logical choice. Walker (4-7, 4.10 ERA before getting sent to Tacoma) could be called up to make the start. The No. 2 starter in Seattle’s Opening Day rotation, Walker has a lot to prove and could be a huge key to the Mariners’ run.
Diaz: We all know he can throw, but can he learn how to pitch? Or, more exactly, can he learn how to pitch in the heat of a playoff run? Like every pitcher ever, he’s building up an archive of film for other teams to watch and the scouting reports on him are being fleshed out. Everyone is rabid to put him in the “closer” slot – (colloquially) “He Da Man.” It’s not his 22 year-old arm that’s a concern; it’s his 22 year-old head.
Suggestions: Get Cishek back into form and share the “closer” role. Let Diaz pitch the eighth inning or the seventh inning, especially when we have a good lead. Let all those other guys out there in the pen know they can-and-will be called upon at any time. Utilize the bullpen to get batters out, not fulfill roles and rack up “saves.”
(Ed. Note: This poster has put the word “closer” and “save” in double quotation marks to highlight the artificial nature of these concepts.)
Forget saves. Get outs. Win ballgames.