Sheffield 'dynamite' with career-high 7 IP

September 6th, 2020

SEATTLE -- avoided serious damage when he turned and caught a 102 mph line drive by Jose Trevino flush on his backside in the first inning, then he spent the rest of Saturday night escaping further trouble, as the Mariners rookie turned in a career-high seven innings in Seattle’s 5-3 win over the Rangers at T-Mobile Park.

“I tried to get out of the way, but there was no chance,” Sheffield said of the early comebacker. “Luckily, I’ve got a pretty big butt, so I’ve got some meat back there. So it’s all good.”

It was all very good for Sheffield, as he gave up a season-high eight hits but issued just one walk with six timely strikeouts while getting some nice defensive help in limiting the Rangers to two runs. Unfortunately for the 24-year-old lefty, the second run came on a solo homer by Anderson Tejeda in the seventh that tied the game at 2-2 and took Sheffield out of position for his third win.

But Sheffield continued showing why the Mariners are looking to him as part of their future, as he turned in his fourth quality start in his past five outings in an 89-pitch effort. Sheffield is 2-3 with a 4.34 ERA this season, but 2-1 with a 3.03 ERA in his past five starts, even after allowing six runs in 4 2/3 innings in his previous outing against the Angels.

“Sheff was dynamite tonight,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said. “He kept the ball on the ground. They did have some ground-ball singles on balls that got through the infield, but awesome outing. I know he wants that one pitch back on the home run in the seventh, but I’m really happy with how he continues to throw the ball and progress.”

Seattle has won 10 of its past 14 and is 17-22 after starting the season 7-18, and Servais said the difference has been starting pitching and defense, which both were evident in abundance again Saturday.

“Starting pitching and defense, I love it,” Servais said. “The thing that excites me about this group is the young players we talked about way back in March, they’re going to get an opportunity. The goal here was just to get better along the way. You’re seeing that play out, and it’s been fun to be a part of.”

The Mariners turned an impressive 5-3-5 double play in the second to help Sheffield out early, as third baseman Kyle Seager made a nice diving stop and quick throw to get Scott Heineman at first, with rookie first baseman Evan White then firing back to Seager to nail Shin-Soo Choo as he tried advancing from first on the play.

“I was fired up for that one,” Sheffield said. “We’ve got a Gold Glover over there at first base and even at third with Seager. I’m just throwing pitches in the zone and letting those guys work behind me. That’s what it boiled down to and it was fun to watch.”

Shortstop J.P. Crawford also made an excellent play by short-hopping a high bouncer and turning a double play on Trevino in the sixth, while right fielder Phillip Ervin -- playing his first game after being claimed off waivers from the Reds -- threw out Isiah Kiner-Falefa trying to stretch a bloop single down the line in the eighth.

Sheffield worked himself out of trouble as well with inning-ending strikeouts in the fourth, fifth and seventh. After seeing the Rangers come out aggressive early, he went far more to his changeup than normal and it paid dividends.

Rookie designated hitter drove in the go-ahead run with a single in the eighth, and White and Ervin added RBI hits, as the Mariners broke open a 2-2 tie in the eighth.

“It felt good to get in there and just do something to help the team win in my first day and get the jitters out of the way,” said Ervin, a 2013 first-round Draft pick by the Reds. “I’m happy with my performance today, and we’ll try to keep the train rolling.”