Anderson continues to sparkle for Mariners

August 18th, 2021

ARLINGTON -- The Mariners’ series and eight-game road trip opener was precisely how manager Scott Servais drew it up, even with Seattle’s scuffling offense continuing to struggle with consistent run production.

All Servais needed was a lead -- as small as one run, really, until the ninth -- given how stellar Seattle’s pitching has been. And that’s precisely how it played out in a 3-1 win at Globe Life Field on Tuesday.

Seattle’s new and blossoming starter, Tyler Anderson, overcame a solo homer to Andy Ibáñez in the third inning, then retired his final 12 to finish six strong innings, a new high for the lefty since he was acquired ahead of the Trade Deadline, on July 28.

Drew Steckenrider took over in the seventh and worked around a two-out walk to strike out pinch-hitter Jason Martin on eight pitches in an all-fastball sequence. Diego Castillo worked out of a two-on, one-out jam with a superb double play turned by J.P. Crawford and Abraham Toro in the eighth. And Paul Sewald, who just returned from the paternity list and was tasked with the heart of Texas’ order, shut the door for his fifth save.

The Mariners moved back into a virtual tie with Toronto in the postseason chase, as both are now four games back of the Yankees and Red Sox, who are tied for the second American League Wild Card. Over 15 August games, Seattle’s pitching has a combined 2.63 ERA that leads the AL and trails only the defending champion Dodgers. They didn’t walk a single batter on Tuesday, either.

A huge part of that success is thanks to Anderson, whose injection into the fifth spot in the rotation can’t be overstated enough, especially given his ability to pitch deep into games and put the club in a spot to win each time out. The 31-year-old lefty has surrendered three runs or fewer in each of his past nine outings, a stretch in which he now has a 2.98 ERA, and has gone at least five innings in each of his 22 total starts this season.

“We needed another starter,” Servais said. “Not a big name guy, per se, but a guy that just comes in and does his job and gives you a chance. And that's really what we were looking for. Tonight, we got more than that.”

This is precisely what general manager Jerry Dipoto signed up for when he dealt away two mid-to-low-level prospects in exchange for Anderson, whose impending free-agent status was not exactly ideal for the rebuilding Mariners, but necessary given the dearth of available starters at the Deadline and how badly they needed to plug the fifth spot.

That decision is clearly proving to be the right one. Even if they do falter down the stretch, Anderson will be able to spell the bullpen, which has taken a massive tumble when consistently relied upon to collectively make a start each time through (as it did before Anderson’s arrival) with Justin Dunn and Justus Sheffield both sidelined.

Sheffield began a rehab assignment on Sunday but managed to last just 1 1/3 innings, well short of the three that the Mariners had hoped for, in part due to five walks and four runs. But Seattle can ease him back now that Anderson has emerged as arguably their most consistent arm this month, other than Marco Gonzales, who he emulates in many ways given their pitching profiles.

Though the Rangers are among the Majors’ worst teams, especially after dealing away All-Stars Joey Gallo and Kyle Gibson at the Deadline, facing an MLB lineup three times in less than three weeks, as Anderson has, is a tall order. Tuesday’s gameplan with catcher Cal Raleigh featured a heavy dose of fastballs, primarily because Texas didn’t appear to have an answer. Anderson’s homer to Ibáñez was on a changeup that he didn’t quite get to the outside edge and instead caught too much plate.

“I watched my previous outings against them and watched Marco follow it up both times, too, and just kind of see where we can maybe continue to make pitches or where we should maybe try to stay away from where guys are making adjustments,” Anderson said. “So, I think it was nice being able to have Marco after the last couple of starts because it gave me another opportunity to kind of see the same thing and see what would maybe still work or not work.”

Speaking of Raleigh, he scored on a pair of sacrifice flies from Ty France and Mitch Haniger, which, before Luis Torrens went deep in the ninth, underscored how limited the Mariners’ bats were. Raleigh reached in the third after being hit by a 92.7 mph fastball on his right wrist by Taylor Hearn then he roped an up-the-middle single in the fifth, an encouraging sign after hitting .164/.208/.269 in his first 21 games.

The play of the day was by Crawford, who continues his case for his second straight Gold Glove Award. Crawford ignited the play going to his right, vacuuming the grounder so hastily then making a 58.4 mph underhand flip to Toro, who made a quick pivot to France, who had his left leg stretched deep out into the dirt to avoid making an awkward scoop.