SEATTLE -- Scott Servais rarely calls out his team’s shortcomings in the public realm, which made the Mariners manager’s comments stand out after their stinging loss on Sunday in Anaheim and again upon returning to T-Mobile Park on Monday.
Baserunning blunders and defensive miscues cost them over the weekend. Their starting rotation had weathered an uncharacteristic spiral for two-plus weeks. And their offense, going on more than two months, had been “struggling madly” in the words of president of baseball operations Jerry Dipoto.
“Lack of focus,” Servais said.
Yet in the two days since that public evaluation, the Mariners have looked nothing like a team lacking focus. In these 48 hours, they’ve played arguably their most complete games in successive nights, continuing with Tuesday’s 9-3 victory over the Marlins, which pushed them back to .500 (33-33).
Cal Raleigh snapped out of an 0-for-21 with a three-run homer demolished 409 feet and nearly to the right-field concourse. Mike Ford seared a pair of homers through the marine layer for his third and fourth in only eight games since being recalled from Triple-A Tacoma. And José Caballero punctuated their offensive efforts with a bases-clearing triple with no outs in the sixth.
It was the first time this season that the Mariners had scored at least eight runs on consecutive nights.
“Playing a complete game is really important,” Raleigh said. “I feel like before, it felt like we almost had to play a perfect game to win. And it feels like these last couple games we've put it all together as far as pitching, starters, bullpen, defense -- even the hitting side of it, which is nice to see and it's good to see it come together.”
Beyond the run scoring and Kirby’s gem, a few other moments stood out that won’t shine in the box score but underscored the Mariners’ big strides:
- Marlins starter Edward Cabrera had nasty stuff -- including a changeup averaging 92.3 mph -- yet the Mariners grinded him to 85 pitches through just four innings, thanks to three walks and four hits. Ty France’s first-inning strikeout was on 10 pitches. Teoscar Hernández and Jarred Kelenic drew leadoff walks in the second and fourth, respectively. Cabrera reached a three-ball count six times.
- Aside from the triple, Caballero reached base two other times to raise his on-base percentage to .407 in 40 games -- and both times, he stole second base, his eighth and ninth of the year. Kelenic also had a steal to reach scoring position for Ford’s first homer in the fourth. And earlier, in the second, his hustle to beat out a would-be double play also ensured there were two runners on base for Raleigh’s homer instead of one -- notable, given that the game was in a scoreless tie.
- Defensively, France made a few impressive 1-3 plays against chopping ground balls, and Hernández had a running grab that nearly carried him into the right-center wall. Caballero and J.P. Crawford turned a double play to end the game against Luis Arraez, MLB’s best contact hitter, who remained hitless this series.
“We have so much potential, and I still think we're not playing to it,” Kirby said. “And I think it's just going to be really exciting to see what we're going to do in the second half of the season. I think [playing cleaner baseball] is part of it. A little more focus.”
The big question now -- which even Servais addressed postgame on Monday -- is if the Mariners can create momentum. Before Tuesday, they’d lost five of their past six games following a win and entered this series against Miami losers of eight of their past 11 overall.
Moreover, the Mariners have been stuck within two games on either side of .500 for 40 of the past 41 days, and they’ve only once reached as high as three games above .500, back on May 28, when Eugenio Suárez hit a walk-off homer against Pittsburgh.
It’s an opportune time to step on the gas.
“I think it's important as we keep going, and I think it's contagious,” Raleigh said. “Once we start hitting the ball, once we start throwing the ball, it's going to carry over and everybody's going to start doing their job.”