Mariners dodge Trout again en route to 5th straight win

June 26th, 2022

ANAHEIM -- Walk Mike Trout to bring the winning run to the plate? Walk Mike Trout to bring the winning run to the plate.

That was the logic in the Mariners’ dugout during another tense win over the Angels on Saturday night, a 5-3 contest that extended Seattle’s win streak to a season-high five. The club also supplanted the Angels for third place in the AL West, a standing it hasn’t reached since May 16.

And the victory, in huge part, hinged again on Mariners manager Scott Servais up against a late-inning predicament of what to do against Trout, with the stakes even tighter than those he faced the night prior. The Angels’ superstar stepped to the plate as the tying run with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning against Erik Swanson, which prompted a quick consultation with pitching coach Pete Woodworth and the rest of the infield before the at-bat.

Swanson fell behind 2-0, the second pitch a 95 mph fastball that sailed up and in and to the backstop, at which point Servais opted to put Trout on first. That brought up Shohei Ohtani -- who hit one of MLB’s most staggering home runs of the season, a 462-foot shot in the third -- and risked a potential walk-off against the reigning AL MVP. But Swanson dropped a splitter below the zone that Ohtani couldn’t quite barrel up, instead hitting a 104.2 mph flyout, 345 feet to right field to end the game.

Another night, another crisis averted.

One week after Trout crushed five homers in Seattle, the Mariners have mostly dodged his damage this weekend at Angel Stadium -- but doing so has involved risk. There typically always is against the three-time AL MVP, whether pitching to him or not.

“It’s not ‘baseball by the book,’ so to speak,” Servais said. “You can’t play it by the book. You can’t play scared. You’re going to have to roll the dice once in a while. I know a great hitter is coming up in Ohtani. He hit the ball really hard, and we caught a break. We were able to catch one. Again, you’ve got to roll the dice once in a while on those things.”

Swanson helped continue Seattle’s winning streak by, in unison, capping the Mariners’ fifth straight shutout from its relievers, who’ve been scoreless in 15 1/3 combined innings on this undefeated road trip. Yet to do so, he had to flush out the stakes and zero back in after a tense miss to Trout that evoked chirping from the Angels’ dugout.

“You’ve got another out you’ve got to get,” Swanson said. “You’re trying to win a ballgame. You’re trying to get [Ohtani] out. You can’t really be thinking about a guy on second and a guy on first. The guy at the plate is the last out of the game, and I’ve got to get it.”

Trout was frustrated with the high-and-in heater that preceded the walk, saying, “If you can’t pitch inside, don’t pitch inside. If you’re going to hit me, hit me in the ribs, don’t hit me in the head. I don’t know if that was the intent, but anything at the head, you don’t do that.”

Swanson said he was zeroing in on Trout’s weakest quadrants of the strike zone, which is the upper rail.

“You’re trying to go up right there,” Swanson said. “If I’m going to miss up, that’s where I want to miss, especially to a hitter like that. The guy is one of, if not the best, hitters in the entire league, and if I’m going to miss, I need to miss up with that.”

Swanson pushed Seattle to the finish line, but the contributions from Penn Murfee, Ryan Borucki and Diego Castillo were just as critical on a night where the Mariners’ bats -- despite five runs -- stranded 12 baserunners and went 2-for-16 with runners in scoring position.

After leaving the bases loaded in the second and third, they finally broke through in the sixth when Jesse Winker drew a two-out, game-tying walk and Kevin Padlo followed by punching a two-run single into right field. Dylan Moore plated an insurance run with a one-out sacrifice fly an inning later.

“You can feel it, guys know those at-bats are important,” Servais said. “They know we’re struggling there. I felt like it was a big sigh of relief when Padlo got the big hit, and I thought we were better after that.”

Despite surrendering two solo homers and an RBI single to his final batter, Logan Gilbert put the offense in a favorable spot as he continues his All-Star bid, carrying a 2.44 ERA through 15 starts, of which the Mariners have won 10.

That effort, and a roll of the dice, has put Seattle in position to sweep its six-game road trip.