'We want it': Mariners sweep, move up in WC

Seven-run 11th helps Seattle move into third in AL Wild Card chase

September 6th, 2021

PHOENIX -- The Mariners came to the desert this weekend and accomplished what they set out to do: sweep the lowly D-backs and gain ground in the American League Wild Card race. They departed town having made a strong closing statement -- one that showed they’re trying their hardest to end the franchise’s 20-year postseason drought over the final month of the season.

came through with a two-run double that sparked a seven-run rally in the 11th inning and powered Seattle to a 10-4 victory on Sunday afternoon at Chase Field. The Mariners (75-62) have won a season-high-tying five games in a row and six of their past seven, and they improved to a season-best 13 games over .500.

Boston lost to Cleveland, so the Mariners are only three games back of the Red Sox for the second AL Wild Card berth with 25 games to play. Meanwhile, the Blue Jays swept a three-game series against the A’s this weekend, which left both of those clubs four back of Boston.

Mariners manager Scott Servais typically says he doesn't look at the scores of other games on the out-of-town scoreboard. He didn’t hide it on Sunday -- he saw that the Red Sox and A’s both lost, giving his club an opportunity to capitalize.

"This is a special team," Servais said. "And we need some help, there’s no question about it, we need a little help here along the way. You need some other teams to stub their toe. But we can only control so much, and that’s what we do on the field. We knew before the game started what the situation was today. Our players knew it. But you’ve still got to go out and play."

For much of the day, the Mariners’ offense couldn’t break through. They had three runs through 10 innings, having only scored on a fielder’s choice and a sacrifice fly in the fourth and a seventh-inning double play.

With the game tied at 3 entering the 11th, Seattle loaded the bases on back-to-back walks by Mitch Haniger and Ty France. Fortunately for the Mariners, it was Seager who stepped to the plate next. Entering Sunday, no player in MLB had more go-ahead RBIs this season than Seager’s 29. A day after hitting a pair of three-run homers -- each of which gave Seattle a lead -- he came through again, ripping a 2-0 fastball from right-hander Taylor Clarke to right field and giving the Mariners a 5-3 lead.

"He’s seeing the ball really good right now, and people that have seen Kyle Seager play for a while know that when he’s seeing the ball good, he’s getting his good swing off, he’s going to swing at the right pitches," Servais said. "You don’t know if you’re going to get a double or if he’s going to hit the ball at somebody, but you know he’s going to hit the ball hard. Didn’t surprise me, we had the right guy up."

After Seager’s big hit, the rest of Seattle’s bats came to life. Abraham Toro and Tom Murphy each added RBI singles, Jake Bauers delivered a pinch-hit two-run double and Haniger tacked on an RBI knock.

That rally wouldn’t have been possible without a brilliant performance by right-hander Yohan Ramirez a half-inning earlier. After the D-backs bunted the automatic runner over to third base to open the bottom of the 10th, Ramirez struck out Christian Walker and got Josh Rojas on a popup to preserve the tie, going on to earn his first Major League win.

It was part of another dominant showing for Seattle’s bullpen, as five relievers combined for five innings of two-hit ball. The unit allowed only one unearned run, which came when Arizona’s automatic runner scored in the 11th.

"We have a really good group that pulls for each other,” Ramirez said through an interpreter. “We have the same enthusiasm every day whenever anybody goes out there, trying to back them up, and it’s worked so far."

With their sweep mission accomplished in Arizona, the Mariners will now head to Houston to play three games against the Astros, who lead them by 4 1/2 games in the AL West. After that, Seattle’s schedule features 10 games against the Red Sox and A’s and 12 against sub-.500 teams (the D-backs, Royals and Angels).

Seattle will have chances to cut into Boston’s lead for the second Wild Card and to stave off Oakland. But it also likely needs to take care of business against teams it should beat, just as it did this weekend.

"We’ve been playing some pretty solid baseball as of lately. We want it," said Mariners starter Chris Flexen, who allowed three runs in six innings. "We’re going to go out and compete, we’re trying to win ballgames and we’re trying to get there. It’s exciting, it’s a good group, everyone’s hungry for that spot and trying to win."