SEATTLE -- With their injury-riddled rotation requiring a radical approach to stay in the American League Wild Card chase, the Mariners have tried going with shorter outings for a number of unproven fill-in starters, supplemented by a rotating crew of long relievers and heavier reliance on the bullpen.That strategy didn't
SEATTLE -- With their injury-riddled rotation requiring a radical approach to stay in the American League Wild Card chase, the Mariners have tried going with shorter outings for a number of unproven fill-in starters, supplemented by a rotating crew of long relievers and heavier reliance on the bullpen.
That strategy didn't pay off in the first five games of this homestand as the bullpen faltered several times and the offense didn't provide enough cushion to overcome any mistakes. But things finally fell into place on Tuesday night as newly acquired starter Andrew Albers combined with four relievers to retire the final 20 batters in a row and record a 3-1 win over the Orioles.
"That is the pitching plan we've been trying to do," manager Scott Servais acknowledged. "It starts with the guy that gets up there on the hill in the first inning. He's got to give you a chance and he did tonight."
Albers, acquired from the Braves last Friday after James Paxton went down with a strained pectoral muscle, picked up his first Major League win since throwing a two-hit shutout for the Twins against the Indians on Aug. 12, 2013.
Since then he's bounced around with the Blue Jays, back to the Twins and spent a year in Korea before settling into a strong season this year for the Braves' Triple-A Gwinnett club. But on Tuesday, he found himself in the thick of the American League playoff chase and provided a big lift to a Mariners team that has now used an MLB-high 37 pitchers, including 16 starters.
"You see the maturity of a guy who has been in the big leagues before and has been through a lot in his career," Servais said. "He just went after them. He knows who he is and what his stuff is and how to use it."
Albers worked around considerable traffic in the first three frames, when he gave up all six of his hits and a walk, but limited the damage to just one run on Jonathan Schoop's first-inning homer.
In the third, Machado popped a double down the first-base line and moved to third on a wild pitch during a walk to Schoop. But with runners on first and third and no out, center fielder Jarrod Dyson ran down a line drive by Adam Jones and fired a perfect strike to the plate to get Machado trying to tag and score.
"That was a huge turn of events," said Albers. "Tremendous play."
Albers then got Trey Mancini to ground out to end that threat and wound up retiring the last eight batters he faced before turning a 3-1 lead over to four relievers who followed ith four perfect innings.
Servais pulled Albers even though he'd thrown only 77 pitches.
"He did his job," Servais said. "We're looking for our guys to get us to that point and then go to the bullpen and we can match it up."
"I'm just happy to be here and contribute," Albers said. "I think the story tonight was the bullpen. They were unbelievable. Luckily I was able to put us in position to have a chance to win and they absolutely shut the door."
That part of the plan worked to perfection as Servais was able to turn to the strong side of his 'pen with the lead. Rookie Emilio Pagan lowered his ERA to 2.27 with two quick innings that included four strikeouts and Marc Rzepczynski, Nick Vincent and Edwin Diaz polished off the rest.
"It's huge," Pagan said of getting things back on track after the five-game skid. "Any game we can win at this point is good. The fans last weekend were awesome and we kind of laid an egg for 'em. So anytime we can get back on the winning train, that's good."
Greg Johns has covered the Mariners since 1997, and for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB.