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Mariners edged by Giants as WC race tightens

July 24, 2018

SEATTLE -- A Mariners team that has made a living on one-run wins fell on that sword Tuesday night as the Giants scored an unearned run in the top of the ninth to pull out a 4-3 victory against Mariners All-Star closer Edwin Diaz.Pinch-hitter Pablo Sandoval beat out an infield

SEATTLE -- A Mariners team that has made a living on one-run wins fell on that sword Tuesday night as the Giants scored an unearned run in the top of the ninth to pull out a 4-3 victory against Mariners All-Star closer Edwin Diaz.
Pinch-hitter Pablo Sandoval beat out an infield single on a slow roller to second baseman Dee Gordon with two out in the ninth and Gordon's hurried throw glanced off first baseman Ryon Healy's glove to allow Steven Duggar to score the go-ahead run from second.
"I think it was a good pitch," Diaz said. "Dee tried to do his best. Bad luck for us today."

The 5-foot-11, 268-pound Sandoval isn't a player normally associated with infield hits, but it was his fifth of the season for a Giants team that improved to 52-50 in the National League West.
"I knew Dee Gordon was playing deep," said Sandoval, "so I had a pretty good chance to get there."
The Mariners still have the most one-run wins in the Majors at 26-13, but they are starting to feel the heat from the A's in the race for the American League's No. 2 Wild Card spot.
"We've been on the better side of most of those games this year," manager Scott Servais said. "You're kind of back and forth. They score, we score. You feel really good about our chances late because we have executed late in those games and won. Tonight was just one when we didn't."
The loss dropped Seattle six games back of the Astros in the AL West at 60-41. Meanwhile, the surging A's topped Texas, 13-10 -- overcoming a 10-2 deficit -- as Oakland has gone 25-7 since June 16 to cut Seattle's lead from 11 games to 1 1/2 for the final playoff spot in the league with two months to go.
Long reliever Roenis Elias (2-0, 3.00) found out he was making his first start of the season in place of James Paxton in a morning phone call from Servais, then allowed two runs on six hits over 3 2/3 innings to keep Seattle in the game early.

Elias struck out five while throwing a season-high 75 pitches in his first MLB start since June 17, 2016, while with the Red Sox.
"I appreciated the opportunity," Elias said through interpreter Nasusel Cabrera. "I didn't know until late today, but I just needed to be ready. I felt good and tried to get through four innings."
That kept the Mariners in the game and they matched the Giants run-for-run in the third, fourth and sixth frames. Guillermo Heredia's home run -- his first since April 10 -- tied the game at 1-1, Denard Span made it 2-2 with a sacrifice fly in the fourth and Ben Gamel's pinch-hit RBI single evened the score at 3 in the sixth.

Servais employed five relievers from his well-rested bullpen to follow Elias and they held the Giants to a single run -- on Hunter Pence's first homer of the season in the sixth off Chasen Bradford -- over 4 1/3 innings until Diaz gave up the unearned tally for Seattle's ninth loss in its past 13 games.
Gordon has been excellent defensively at second base since moving back to his natural position following Robinson Cano's 80-game suspension and Servais didn't fault him trying to make the tough play instead of just holding the ball.
"There's a lot that plays into that," he said. "Certainly Sandoval's not a fast runner. Dee is playing very deep. We know Dee is an extraordinary athlete. We know Dee can cover ground and make up for plays like that. But he's trying to make the tough play. ...
"Guys are busting their butt trying to make a play there at the end of the game. Can't fault anybody for that. We just didn't execute it."
The Mariners had a chance to take the lead in the fourth after Span's bases-loaded, no-out sacrifice fly tied the game at 2. But Kyle Seager was nailed trying to score from second by a strong throw from left fielder Austin Slater on a Mike Zunino single and Heredia grounded out to end the threat. Slater's rocket was recorded at 99.6 mph, the hardest outfield throw by a Giants outfielder since Statcast™ began in 2015.
"Scott Brosius has done a great job for us at third base all year," Servais said of his third-base coach. "He had a feeling [based on] scouting reports on guys' arm strength and accuracy and all those other things. We took a chance there and their guy made a good play, a really good throw. Cost us a run at the plate. He made the play. We forced him to make it and he did."

Heredia's third-inning home run was his third of the year and first since April 10, a span of 76 games played and 233 plate appearances. The homer was projected at 404 feet to center field by Statcast™.
"G's been struggling a little bit at the plate," Servais said. "He smoked that ball. That's about all he's got. And to hit it out of that part of the ballpark kind of got our offense going tonight."

Mike Leake (8-6, 4.22 ERA) starts Wednesday's 1:10 p.m. PT series finale against Giants lefty Derek Holland (5-8, 4.06) in a game that will be broadcast live only on Facebook and radio. Leake is 0-2 with a 5.79 ERA in three July starts, but is coming off a nine-day break after giving up just two runs (one earned) in his last outing at Colorado.

Greg Johns has covered the Mariners since 1997, and for since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB.