Mariners go off script to end A's set with a win

September 23rd, 2022

OAKLAND -- It was a picture perfect day in Northern California on Thursday, ripe for the sky to fall squarely on the Mariners in what’s been a brutal road trip.

Their best player exited during the first inning with lower back tightness. Their most consistent starting pitcher in the second half coughed up five runs and failed to make it out of the third. A loss would yield a sweep to a last-place team and inch their postseason hopes closer to concerning.

But in the latest chapter of resiliency in a season that’s had plenty, Seattle rebounded from its adversity, both micro and marco, en route to a 9-5 win over the A’s.

Julio Rodríguez’s status is uncertain after aggravating the injury that sidelined him for three games last weekend. George Kirby also exited early, with one out in the third inning, but for uncharacteristic struggles and not health. Yet Thursday’s victory encapsulated the type of offense the Mariners have when they’re at their best, by creating consistent traffic and receiving contributions from players beyond just Rodríguez.

“We have guys that have done different things at different points in the season, but the strength is our team,” manager Scott Servais said. “In saying that, it's leaning on the guy next to you and trusting the guy behind you to pass the baton.”

Thursday was a prime example of Servais’ assertion, which he shared pregame.

Before Rodríguez exited, the rookie led off the game with a 109.1 mph double and was one of six baserunners to reach in the first inning, leading to three runs. Then, after Kirby labored with command and walked three for just the second time in his pro career, Jarred Kelenic swung momentum back in Seattle’s favor with a massive 427-foot solo homer in the fourth.

But it was the three-spot in the sixth that turned things around for good. Ty France led off with his first triple of 2022 down the right-field line, then Kelenic drove him in with a hustle double to center field that tied the game. Dylan Moore was then intentionally walked and stole his 17th base, which positioned Adam Frazier to chip a two-run double just barely inside fair territory down the third-base line for two go-ahead runs.

Why those moments stood out:

• Kelenic was in a 3-0 count and had the green light. So instead of spitting on a hanging middle-in slider from reliever Kirby Snead, he let it rip and it led to a run.

“Big situation there,” Kelenic said. “[Snead] kind of was just messing with me. I figured that was going to be probably the best pitch I was going to get that whole at-bat. So when I got the green light, I looked for something over the heart of the plate, tried to stay up the middle, and that's what happened.”

• Moore is arguably Seattle’s best baserunner other than Rodríguez and Sam Haggerty, and one of its more instinctual players. He noticed Snead’s long stride to the plate and reached standing. Both TV broadcasts didn’t even cut to Moore running because it happened so quickly, and it put him in scoring position for the next man up to make a play.

“We were just trying to fight,” Frazier said. “Obviously, it’s been a grind the past week or two, so a big situation right there. They walked D-Mo and then he stole a bag, so I knew they were going to come after me.”

• Frazier’s .236 batting average doesn’t stand out, but his 87.4% contact rate (second highest on the team) certainly does. So when he fell into a 2-2 count with two outs and the game tied, he protected and punched a slider way off the plate into the opposite field. The ball had just a 61.2 mph exit velocity and a 17% hit probability, but he’ll take it.

“Especially after swinging at a 2-0 slider, I was like, ‘All right. Just stay inside the ball, hit the ball the other way and do whatever I’ve got to do,’” Frazier said. “That ball was off the plate, but I’m glad I got to it.”

As Servais stood on the mound when relieving Kirby in the third, he told the infielders that “this is going to be a crazy game,” because of the back-and-forth swings and the many bullpen matchups that were oncoming. It was the type of formula not too different from a postseason game, with so many moving parts -- and just about every hitter chipped in.

“You kind of need one of those games,” Servais said. “It’s not by the script. You’re mixing and matching. 'How are we going to run the bullpen? Who is going to come in to hit?' All those things. You get everybody involved and everyone feels a part of it, and then you move forward from there.”