Mariners find a way in back-to-back shutouts

September 2nd, 2021

SEATTLE -- Just when outsiders think they’re down and out, that their season is on the skids, that a spiral is looming, the Mariners continue to find life and remain in the hunt for October.

For the second day in a row, Seattle completely silenced Houston, this time in a 1-0 win on Wednesday afternoon at T-Mobile Park to clinch the series and finish its homestand on a high note. The victory came hours after the club announced that it had extended Jerry Dipoto and Scott Servais to multiyear contracts.

Houston, with the recent return of third baseman Alex Bregman to augment a lineup that was already the American League’s best, was shut out for just the sixth time all season, with half of those coming against Mariners pitchers, who collectively just finished an August in which they were statistically among the Majors’ best. This is the first time since 2014 that the Astros have thrice been shut out by one team in a season.

The series finale came down to another gritty performance from Paul Sewald, who recorded a four-out save that began with a punchout of Carlos Correa in their third matchup in 11 days, all of which yielded the same result. Sewald returned for the ninth, gave up singles to Yuli Gurriel and Bregman, then worked a flyout to Kyle Tucker and froze Jake Meyers for a game-ending strikeout.

From there, Sewald unleashed the high-energy emotional reaction that is becoming more familiar each time he pitches.

“For me, looking at our team and what's happening, he's the MVP of our team,” Servais said. “We have a month of baseball left ahead of us, but he has been so valuable to come in and shut rallies down and just always pitching in the toughest part of the lineup. It's not easy to do.”

Sewald capped a collective effort that began with the 19th big league start from Logan Gilbert, who had what Servais said was “the best stuff we’ve ever seen in any game.” He threw five scoreless innings. Justus Sheffield returned from the IL for the sixth. Casey Sadler followed with a 1-2-3 seventh. And though Drew Steckenrider worked into some eighth-inning trouble, he got the big assist from Sewald.

“That's why we do what we want to do,” Sewald said. “You want to be in high-leverage situations. You want to be the guy at the plate. You want to be the guy coming in the game and those big situations. … You don't really make it in this league very long if you don't want to be in those situations.

“So of course, that's what I want to be out there doing. I want to help our team in the biggest leverage spots, and that's why I play baseball. It's because I live to pitch in big spots like that.”

Seattle didn’t exactly wow with its bats, producing just three hits. The game’s lone run came via a sacrifice fly from -- guess who -- Abraham Toro, who tormented his former teammates in this series after Tuesday’s epic grand slam off the very player for whom he was traded. The run on that sac fly came from J.P. Crawford, who scored standing after an aggressive send from third-base coach Manny Acta.

Crawford also had a critical backhanded diving stop on a 110.5 mph chopper from Correa that halted Jose Altuve from scoring a run in the third. Had the ball broken through, who knows where the game would’ve been after nine innings and three hours and 17 minutes had gone by.

“Paul Sewald may be our MVP, but I think that the heart and soul of this club is really J.P. Crawford,” Servais said. “His ability to go out and play every day. I don’t think people give that enough credit.”

Again with sound defense, a big rebound from Gilbert -- the Mariners had been defeated in his past five outings -- and its bullpen, Seattle found a way. 

Wednesday marked the Mariners’ 44th one-run game of the season, a clip that trails only the Mets’ 51. And they got back to thriving in these tight tilts, having gone 23-8 in their first 31 such contests but 4-8 in their most recent 12. It also marked just the second series victory against Houston since the start of the 2019 season, with the first coming back in mid-April at T-Mobile Park.

Seattle (72-62) is 3 1/2 games back of the second American League Wild Card spot heading into Thursday's off-day, with 28 games to play. Up next is a three-game series against an Arizona club this weekend that is among the worst in baseball. After that, a three-game rematch in Houston awaits with these Astros, who have won nine of 16 against the Mariners, then another three-gamer with the D-backs back in Seattle.

After dropping three of four to Kansas City over the weekend, all of a sudden, the Mariners -- like they have all season -- continue to find new life.