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Seattle snaps skid behind Murphy, Leake

Backup catcher homers, guides righty through 7 strong innings
@gregjohnsmlb
June 1, 2019

SEATTLE -- Tom Murphy doesn’t have quite the résumé of Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani, but the Mariners' backup catcher matched the Angels stars and more, as Seattle pulled out a 4-3 victory on Friday night at T-Mobile Park. While Trout and Ohtani launched back-to-back solo homers to taint an

SEATTLE -- Tom Murphy doesn’t have quite the résumé of Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani, but the Mariners' backup catcher matched the Angels stars and more, as Seattle pulled out a 4-3 victory on Friday night at T-Mobile Park.

While Trout and Ohtani launched back-to-back solo homers to taint an otherwise stellar start by Mike Leake, Murphy countered with a two-run shot of his own and also scored the game’s first run after just missing another homer with a ringing double off the top of the center-field wall.

Box score

Murphy, who was waived by both the Rockies and Giants in late March before landing with Seattle, has hit .302 with three home runs in 20 games while backing up Omar Narvaez. And no, he didn’t think his first at-bat against Tyler Skaggs was going to be a home run, even though he ripped a 106.1-mph line drive that ricocheted just inches below the yellow line on the padding atop the left-center-field fence.

“I was worried more about Trout catching that one than anything else, because you never know what that guy can do,” Murphy said. “I didn’t think I hit that one high enough.”

The second one?

“That one, I knew I got,” he said with a smile.

For good measure, Murphy threw out the Angels’ Brian Goodwin trying to steal second in the seventh, moments before right fielder Mitch Haniger made a spectacular diving catch on a David Fletcher line drive in the gap, as the Mariners’ defense finally stepped up to help Leake’s efforts.

Jay Bruce then launched what turned out to be the difference-maker, with a 417-foot solo shot to center in the bottom of the seventh, giving him 14 homers on the season and 300 for his career. Along with 301 doubles, Bruce becomes the eighth active player with 300 doubles and 300 homers.

To come in a much-needed victory for a team that has gone 12-33 since its 13-2 start made it all the sweeter.

“Absolutely,” Bruce said. “We haven’t been playing great. The two things that stood out the most tonight were the defense and pitching. Mike set the tone. We had some very good defensive plays. You can’t say enough about the calmness you have when [Kyle] Seager is over at third base. It’s not taking away from anybody else, but he’s as good as it gets over there, and it’s fun to watch him.”

Murphy only has 13 career home runs, but his third of this season was a big one for the Mariners, as well as Leake, who matched his longest start of the year with seven innings, while allowing just the two runs on five hits.

Leake had allowed 12 earned runs in 11 2/3 innings in losing his previous two starts, but he was on point against the Angels, improving to 4-6 with a 4.71 ERA.

“I thought that was the best Mike has thrown in quite some time,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said. “Just really good rhythm. Mike is a feel guy, and he was feeling it with the breaking ball tonight, ran some cutters in there and just kept them off balance.”

Bass to the rescue for bullpen

Things got shaky after Leake’s departure when the Angels cut the lead to 4-3 on an RBI single by Ohtani off reliever Jesse Biddle. But Anthony Bass came on to get a bases-loaded flyout from Jonathan Lucroy.

Bass picked up his fourth career save -- and first since 2014 while with the Astros -- with a 1-2-3 ninth to help the Mariners snap a three-game losing streak, with just their second win in their past 11 games.

“Bass really picked us up tonight,” Servais said. “He hasn’t been with the ballclub that long, but I like what he does. He doesn’t give in. He can change speeds and he makes pitches when he has to make them.”

The veteran was pitching his fifth game with the Mariners after signing a Minor League deal on May 21. Prior, Bass had been pitching well for the Reds’ Triple-A affiliate.

“It’s good to start off on the right foot,” Bass said. “I’m coming in here and want to win ballgames. Whatever role they put me in, my job is to put a zero on the board and keep runners on base. I was thankful to do that tonight.”

They’ve seen that act before

Trout has terrorized the Mariners for years, of course, and his 21 home runs in 73 games at T-Mobile Park are the most of any visiting player in the stadium’s history. He’s hit 35 homers overall against the Mariners, five more than against any other team.

Leake certainly has been a victim of plenty of Trout’s mayhem, as the two-time American League MVP Award winner is 12-for-24 with six doubles and two home runs against him.

Ohtani has less history, obviously, but the second-year Major Leaguer is now 5-for-12 with a home run vs. Leake.

“They’re star players,” Leake said. “Working Trout there, I just didn’t get the changeup quite where I wanted. Or he’s that good, either way. Ohtani has done that to me before. I’ve seen it before.”

But the Angels couldn’t muster anything else against Leake in his 102-pitch outing.

“He’s just a smart pitcher,” Angels manager Brad Ausmus said of Leake. “Never shows you the same look twice, uses all of his pitches -- cutter, sinker, both sides of the plate, in on righties, in on lefties, changes arm slot on curve at times. He doesn’t light the radar gun up, but he’s a very smart pitcher who has command of all his pitches.”

Greg Johns has covered the Mariners since 1997, and for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB.