Moore, Murphy bust slumps in win over LA

Mariners' stout 'pen holds down Angels with ease

May 1st, 2021

SEATTLE -- flashed his athletic versatility and finally had the breakout game he sorely needed. needed one just as bad, and he also got going with a go-ahead homer that sent Seattle’s lower leg of the lineup sailing. And the shutdown bullpen was once again nails. The collective cocktail led to a 7-4 win over the Angels on Friday at T-Mobile Park.

Both Moore and Murphy reached base multiple times in the same game for the first time this season, with Moore going 2-for-3 and crushing a solo homer in the second inning that tied the game after Chris Flexen gave up two runs in the first. Murphy then ended Angels starter Andrew Heaney’s outing with his solo shot in the fourth. He also walked in the sixth and drilled an RBI double in the eighth.

Moore single-handedly manufactured a critical insurance run in the sixth when he led off with a walk, moved to second on a wild pitch, stole third and then scored via an errant throw from Kurt Suzuki to Anthony Rendon.

Really, it was a strong -- and much-needed -- showing from the bottom of the lineup, which went 7-for-19 from the Nos. 5-9 spots in the order. Entering Friday, they were receiving a collective slash line of .180/.273/.286 from those spots for a .560 OPS.

“The biggest thing with hitting is confidence,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said. “When you walk into the box, you feel like you can get a hit. It doesn't matter who's on the mound. And sometimes, you need a few nights like tonight to get that confidence going again.”

Moore and Murphy were each critical cogs in Seattle's lineup in 2020 and '19, respectively, but they entered the three-game series mired in significant slumps. Moore was 7-for-65 with 27 strikeouts, and Murphy, 5-for-45 with 18 punchouts. Both had slowly been dropped in the order, with Murphy now splitting time with Luis Torrens behind the plate.

When Jacob Nottingham was claimed off waivers from the Brewers earlier on Wednesday, a roster decision loomed. Would Murphy, out of Minor League options, be designated for assignment? Or would another struggling bat -- Torrens, Evan White or Taylor Trammell -- be on the cusp of being sent to Triple-A Tacoma, with its season beginning next Thursday?

That roster move wound up being White going on the bereavement list on Friday, but those possibilities still persist. Yet Moore and Murphy powering Seattle to its second straight win, particularly after a tough series in Houston, were welcome signs.

Here’s Moore on how he’s battling the mental side after a tough first month: “It’s very frustrating. There’s all types of doubts that creep into your mind, and you’ve got to keep them at bay with your work level and just work through it. I mean, it's a long, long season and last year with 60 games, it's a little bit different.”

And Murphy: “It's been one of the biggest challenges of my career. There's no doubt about it, especially at the professional level here. This was my first Opening Day this year in the big leagues, 30 years old. And it's not the start that I imagined, especially after missing all last year, and just wanting to do as well as I can. But hopefully, today, it was a sign of good things to come and the way I'm going to trend.”

Just as key to Friday’s win was the bullpen going 12 up and 12 down between Drew Steckenrider, Casey Sadler, Anthony Misiewicz after Flexen labored through four innings with a ballooned pitch count. Rafael Montero gave up one Mike Trout run in the ninth after the three-time MVP led off with a double. But that was all the damage, and by that point, the game was out of reach.

Steckenrider, in particular, was the standout on Friday. He struck out the side in the sixth against the Halos’ heart of the order, including called punchouts to Rendon and Trout, who fanned on three pitches. Seattle’s relievers threw 40 of its 55 pitches for strikes, a reflection of their collective strategy that preaches the importance of staying in the strike zone.

By the numbers, the Mariners' bullpen has statistically been among the best. They lowered their ERA to a 2.38, which is second-best in the Majors to only the Yankees’ 2.24, and they’ve now held opponents to a .552 OPS (tops in MLB).

The bullpen was one of the biggest reasons why the club finished with a winning record in April. And if the bottom of the order can get going like it did on Friday, that’d put them in a strong position to do so again in May.