Collective effort leads to Mariners' sweep in Anaheim

August 7th, 2023

ANAHEIM -- The Mariners pulled off a four-game sweep at Angel Stadium for the first time since 2005, but it certainly didn’t come easy.

In the series finale, a pitchers’ duel between the Mariners’ Bryce Miller (5 IP, 1 R, 10 K) and the Angels’ Chase Silseth (7 IP, 2 R, 12 K) led to yet another nail-biter. Thanks to extra-inning heroics by Eugenio Suárez, who laced a game-winning RBI single in the 10th, the Mariners successfully completed their sweep in a 3-2 victory and exited their weekend just 2 1/2 games behind the Blue Jays for the third AL Wild Card spot.

The Mariners outscored their AL West rivals by a grand total of six runs in the series. Each win was by a margin of two or fewer runs, which was started by the Cade Marlowe game on Thursday night. Nonetheless, the Mariners prevailed in what is their biggest series sweep of the season.

Much like they’ve done all year, the Mariners relied on their superb group of pitchers -- a unit that has a 3.80 ERA, tied for the fourth lowest among all teams. It started with an outstanding effort from Miller, Seattle’s rookie starter who had struggled in his previous two outings, allowing six runs apiece in each one.

On Sunday, Miller was the best he’s been on an MLB mound. He allowed a lone run in five innings, didn’t walk anybody and tied his career-high with 10 strikeouts, a figure he set in his MLB debut in Oakland. Miller’s 96.1 mph average fastball velocity was the highest it’s been in a start, and he generated 22 swinging strikes, the most by a Mariners pitcher in a start in the pitch-tracking era (since 2008).

“I threw the ball a lot better today than I did in my debut,” Miller said. “In my debut, it was mostly fastballs. Today, I was able to get ahead with more sliders and changeups. I felt good all the way around and not just with the fastball.”

Miller still rode his electric fastball and did so with success, generating whiffs on 15 of 33 swings against his fastball and sinker. The slider, though, was a big equalizer in pivotal moments, including against the game’s best player in Shohei Ohtani.

After allowing a first-inning single to Ohtani, Miller bounced back to strike out Ohtani in the next two plate appearances. Both strikeouts ended on sliders below the strike zone, but Miller’s plan against the two-way superstar was perhaps different than the league-wide trend of pitching around him.

“I’d much rather go after him and not walk anybody,” Miller said about facing Ohtani. “It felt good to strike him out.”

With his dominant showing, Miller became the fifth Mariners pitcher with multiple starts in a season of five-plus innings, one run or fewer, 10-plus strikeouts and zero walks, joining Félix Hernández (2011-14), Hisashi Iwakuma (2014), Taijuan Walker (2016) and George Kirby (2022). He joined his teammate Kirby as the only other Mariners rookie to do it.

Much like they’ve seen throughout this hot stretch -- their 22-10 record since July 1 is tied with the Orioles for the best in the Majors -- the Mariners received contributions from several players.

J.P. Crawford stayed hot when he drove the first pitch of the game a Statcast projected 397 feet into the right-field bleachers. Crawford became just the ninth player to homer on the first pitch of the game at Angel Stadium since pitch counts started being tracked in 1988. Crawford didn’t extend his walk streak to what would’ve given him sole possession of a franchise-record 11 straight games, but the home run was a nice consolation prize.

Teoscar Hernández finished a triple shy of the cycle and hit a go-ahead home run in the seventh inning.

Another key cog in Sunday’s win was a Mariners bullpen that chewed up five innings while allowing just one run. On a day when neither Andrés Muñoz nor Matt Brash pitched (both pitched Saturday), Isaiah Campbell, Trent Thornton, Justin Topa and Tayler Saucedo combined for one of the best bullpen efforts of the season.

It was Saucedo who really shined, tossing two scoreless innings while finishing off the game. The first-year Mariner has been a bright spot in Seattle’s bullpen with a 2.08 ERA and 36 strikeouts in 34 2/3 innings.

“Today felt really good. We’re playing great baseball,” Saucedo said. “All we’re trying to do is go out there and win a series and chip away at this thing.”

The Mariners have certainly chipped away at their journey to get back to the playoffs. With an off-day on Monday, the Mariners will return home for a five-game homestand against the Padres and Orioles.