WC-hungry Mariners win 6th straight game

September 25th, 2021

ANAHEIM -- Fresh off a series sweep of the A’s, the Mariners took the next step in their quest to reach the postseason against the Angels on Friday -- and it came with some late-inning drama.

Up by one run and facing a bases-loaded situation in the ninth, closer Paul Sewald struck out Jack Mayfield and induced a game-ending grounder against Jose Rojas to secure a 6-5 win over the Halos at Angel Stadium.

It's the Mariners' sixth consecutive win and keeps Seattle (85-69) within two games of the second AL Wild Card spot. Seattle is also tied with Toronto (85-69) for third in the Wild Card chase.

“This is about as climactic as it's been all season,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said. “We've had some crazy ones where we've come back and scored late, but you're trying to hang on. … They came up with a ton of pressure on us, obviously. They're in the ninth inning with Sewald out there. And to Paul's credit, he just keeps executing pitches.”

Seattle’s record in one-run games improved to an MLB-best 33-18 (.647). That total of one-run wins lead the Majors, but in the mix of a playoff race, Seattle will take victories no matter how slim the margins are.

"I guess you can call it comfort," said Ty France, who homered and drove in three runs. "We're definitely used to [close games]. ... We wish they were easier, but you know what, we came out on top. So, that's all you can ask for. Paul did a great job of slowing the game down and finishing it out.”

The conclusion to the Mariners series-opening win also included a somewhat unconventional strategy.

After Sewald retired Brandon Marsh on a deep flyout to begin the ninth, the Mariners gave two-way star Shohei Othani an intentional walk after Sewald fell behind 2-0 in the count. Servais said the move might have been out of the ordinary, but given Ohtani’s success this season, he had faith in Sewald to complete the save.

“[Ohtani’s] got 45 homers last time I checked,” Servais said. “Yeah, he's had a phenomenal season. Obviously, he's the big bat in their lineup. It's not something [that's] normal baseball etiquette, I would say, to put the tying run on in the ninth inning, but in that situation, I thought it was worth a shot. … But at the end of the day, you know, I trusted Paul to get through it. And he executed pitches and did a great job. So, it's not conventional, but we're the Mariners [of] 2021, we're really not conventional. So why not?”

Before the dramatic ending, the Mariners received some key hits and took advantage of defensive miscues by the Halos to regain their lead after starter Logan Gilbert was removed from the after completing 5 1/3 innings of four-run ball.

Tied at 4 in the seventh following a two-run rally by the Angels in the sixth, Jake Fraley led off with a walk and J.P. Crawford singled behind him before advancing to second on Marsh's throw to third base. An errant throw home from shortstop Luis Rengifo on a France grounder allowed Fraley to score and make it a 5-4 game.

Crawford then scored what ended up being a big insurance run on a sac fly from Mitch Haniger.

Servais credited Crawford’s aggressive baserunning for setting up the crucial rally.

“J.P. really swung the bat really well,” Servais said. “He always plays great defense, but [he had] a heads-up [play] on the bases. … J.P.'s instincts are off the chart. And I often talk about how competitive he is. He's looking for every edge he could get to get that extra 90 feet. And both those instances was really big at the ball.”