ST. PETERSBURG -- Mitch Haniger and Nelson Cruz brought the boom Saturday night as the Mariners defeated the Rays, 7-6, at Tropicana Field.
Playing his first game in the Majors since a 96-mph fastball hit him in the face on July 30, Haniger gave the Mariners an early three-run lead with a grand slam in the third off Rays starter Jake Odorizzi.
"The blow he took in the mouth and to see him go down like that, it's hard to come back," Mariners manager Scott Servais said. "He healed up quickly and got some at-bats in Triple-A. He was really on top of everything tonight. Huge home run for us in the game."
Grand slams mean 40% off pizza
The Mariners (63-61) have won four in a row to pull within a half-game of the Angels and Twins for the second spot in the American League Wild Card race. Meanwhile, the Rays (60-65) lost their fourth straight, and their seventh in their last eight games. Since winning three straight at Houston, the Rays have won just three times in their last 15 games.
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In the fourth, Cruz added his 31st home run of the season with a man aboard to put the Mariners up, 7-2. The homer pushed Cruz to 100 RBIs, making him the fifth Mariner with consecutive 30-homer, 100-RBI seasons.
Miranda allowed three runs on five hits in five innings to move to 8-6 on the season. Odorizzi fell to 6-7 after allowing seven runs on eight hits and five walks in 3 2/3 innings.
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Rays manager Kevin Cash managed to take a positive from Saturday night's loss.
"The bats finally came to life," Cash said. "To me, that's the story of the game. You know, we lost. It stinks, but we needed to see some type of production. Some type of positive performance from the offense, and I think we provided that. It went right down to the very last out."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Haniger's slam: The Rays held a 1-0 lead when Haniger stepped to the plate in the third with the bases loaded. Odorizzi fell behind 1-0 before trying an 87-mph cutter. Haniger connected, depositing the baseball into the left-field stands for his eighth home run of the season and his first career grand slam. The 377-foot home run had a 99.2-mph exit velocity with a 36-degree launch angle, according to Statcast™, and it gave the Mariners a 4-1 lead.
"I was just looking for a pitch I can drive," Haniger said. "Just got to get the run in from third and put a good swing on it. I'm just trying to get this team to the playoffs and do all I can. Do my job and help the team win."
Cruzin': Friday night, Cruz hit the longest home run in Tropicana Field history when he connected in the ninth for a 482-foot homer. Saturday night, Cruz again went deep, but this time it wasn't as obvious. His two-run shot in the fourth had to be reviewed before he was awarded his 31st home run of the season. No matter the distance, home runs count the same, and Cruz's gave the Mariners a 7-2 lead.
"We are riding the Boomstick right now," Servais said. "There's no doubt, Nellie is hot, he's swinging the bat great and everybody else is contributing as well."
"I like the way that we went about it tonight. We just came up short." -- Cash
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Mike Zunino hit a one-out fly ball to left that turned into an adventure. The ball struck the B-ring catwalk, then ricocheted toward the middle of the field. Rays shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria alertly tracked the ball and managed to make the catch. Guillermo Heredia tagged at first and raced to second, sliding into the bag ahead of the throw. But Heredia came off the bag and second baseman Daniel Robertson tagged him out to complete the 6-4 double play, the first double play off a catwalk in Tropicana Field history.
Mariners: The Mariners close out their series in St. Petersburg at 10:10 a.m. PT by sending Yovani Gallardo (5-8, 5.84) to the mound. Gallardo is coming off a loss to Baltimore in which he allowed eight runs and nine hits in four innings. He has not thrown more than 5 2/3 innings in his five starts since returning to the rotation.
Rays: Blake Snell (1-6, 4.78) gets the nod Sunday afternoon in the finale of a three-game series against the Mariners in a 1:10 p.m. ET contest at Tropicana Field. Snell picked up his first win of the season Tuesday against the Blue Jays, giving him his second straight start of at least six innings, his first time doing that since July 7-24, 2016 (three straight).
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