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Sanchez, Kelenic help Arkansas to Game 1 win

@gregjohnsmlb
September 5, 2019

Left-hander Ricardo Sanchez and a trio of relievers held Tulsa in check on Wednesday, as an Arkansas Travelers club made up of many of the Mariners’ top prospects pulled out a 2-1 victory in the opening game of the Double-A Texas League North Division playoffs in Little Rock, Ark. Center

Left-hander Ricardo Sanchez and a trio of relievers held Tulsa in check on Wednesday, as an Arkansas Travelers club made up of many of the Mariners’ top prospects pulled out a 2-1 victory in the opening game of the Double-A Texas League North Division playoffs in Little Rock, Ark.

Center fielder Jarred Kelenic, Seattle’s No. 1 prospect according to MLB Pipeline, went 1-for-4 with an RBI and a stolen base. Left fielder Kyle Lewis (No. 10 prospect) went 2-for-4, and catcher Cal Raleigh (No. 7) walked and scored the go-ahead run on a Tulsa error in the eighth inning.

The best-of-five series continues Thursday in Little Rock, with right-hander Justin Dunn (Seattle’s No. 5 prospect) facing lefty Leo Crawford. Dunn went 9-6 with a 3.55 ERA in the regular season and is expected to join the Mariners as a September callup when Arkansas concludes its playoff run.

Lewis is also expected to be in line for a promotion to the big league club as the Mariners begin taking a look at some of their future building blocks. Both Lewis and Dunn will need to be added to the 40-man roster this offseason anyway to protect them from the Rule 5 Draft, thus are logical players to add for the final weeks of the regular season.

Arkansas finished its regular season at 81-57 and won the North Division first half championship, while Tulsa -- the Dodgers’ Double-A affiliate -- went 77-61 and captured the North’s second-half crown.

The series winner will advance to the Texas League championship -- another best-of-five series -- next week.

Sanchez, a 22-year-old lefty acquired from the Braves last November, got the Game 1 start for Arkansas and threw five innings of one-run ball. Sanchez, the Mariners’ No. 24 prospect, went 8-12 with a 4.44 ERA in 27 starts this season for the Travelers.

Logan Gilbert, Arkansas’ top starter and Seattle’s No. 2 prospect, won’t pitch in the postseason as he’s been shut down after reaching his innings limit. The Mariners want to be careful with the 22-year-old right-hander in his first full season of professional baseball.

Sanchez gave up six hits, three walks and hit a batter in the first four innings, but he worked out of bases-loaded jams in the third and fourth innings to keep the game scoreless until a solo home run by Tulsa catcher Connor Wong in the fifth.

The Travelers were shut out for five innings on four hits by Tulsa’s Josiah Gray -- the Dodgers’ No. 4 prospect -- before finally pushing across a run in the seventh on singles by Mike Ahmed and Luis Liberato, a sacrifice bunt by Donnie Walton and an RBI groundout by Kelenic.

Raleigh scored the go-ahead run in the eighth by drawing a leadoff walk, moving to second on a groundout by Lewis and racing home on a throwing error by Drillers’ second baseman Omar Estevez on a ground ball by Dom Thompson-Williams.

Relievers Jack Anderson, Aaron Fletcher and Sam Delaplane combined to allow just one hit with one walk and three strikeouts over the last four scoreless innings to secure the win.

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