Mallex's walk off, J.P.'s unreal play stand out
Mariners get new life after Murphy's game-tying homer in 7th
SEATTLE -- When you’re 20 games under .500, any victory is worth celebrating. But the Mariners had some special highlights in Friday’s 3-2 win over the Tigers as they pulled out their third walk-off of the season.
With a lineup that had just one player -- Tim Beckham -- who started on Opening Day in Japan in March, the Mariners picked up their fourth win in the past five games to put their record at 44-63.
Pitching and defense proved vital in this one, a welcome change for a club that leads the Majors in errors and unearned runs and has the third-highest ERA in MLB at 5.25.
“We don’t win many 3-2 games,” said Mariners manager Scott Servais. “We have a lot of guys that are young and fresh and have a lot to prove. We’re having a good time right now and playing well.”
Three key moments for the Mariners:
J.P.’s amazing play
Shortstop J.P. Crawford turned in one of the defensive gems of the year with a diving stop in the hole on a 100 mph ground ball by Jeimer Candelario, then throwing off balance, across his body without ever getting to his feet to nip the runner at first for the final out in the top of the ninth.
“That was about as good a play as you’re ever going to see by a shortstop,” said Servais. “Not just stopping the ball, but the throw and getting it on the bag there.”
Servais was impressed by more than just the arm strength and athleticism of the 24-year-old, who is one of the Mariners’ key young additions this season as they build for the future.
“Not just the physical ability, but the internal clock, knowing I have to get rid of this ball to have any chance of getting that guy out,” Servais said. “He got rid of it really quickly. Just a phenomenal play. Great body control. The first thing you have to do is catch it and then have the body control and wherewithal to get it out of your glove and get it on target all the way across the diamond. I don’t know if people realize how hard that is to do. You just don’t see it very often.”
First baseman Austin Nola, who came up as a shortstop in the Minors, was still shaking his head afterward.
“I got to the bag and it almost looked like he threw it over his head like a Hakeem Olajuwon [hook shot],” Nola said. “It was unbelievable. It just came out of nowhere. I was surprised at how much juice it had on the throw. I’ve never seen a throw like that. I’m going to rewatch it and see how it really played out because when I saw the ball, I was just really focused on stretching as hard as I can.”
Added Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire: "That's one of the better plays you'll see. I haven't seen something like that in a long, long time."
Center fielder Mallex Smith picked up the first walk-off hit of his career with a two-out single up the middle off reliever Jose Cisnero, scoring Kyle Seager from third to send the crowd home happy.
Smith got off to a slow start this season after being acquired from the Rays, but has hit .264 since his return from an early demotion to Triple-A and is second in the American League with 27 stolen bases.
Now he can add a game-winning hit to his growing collection.
“I’ve had chances many times before and I just told myself, ‘Don’t try to be more than who you are,” Smith said. “We don’t need a homer, we don’t need a double. We just need a hit. I just tried to keep it as simple as possible.”
In the past?
“I wanted to hit a homer,” he said with a smile. “With age comes knowledge. Just smarter plan, smarter approach.”
A perfect 10 for Murphy
Mariners backup catcher Tom Murphy has been one of the season’s most pleasant surprises and his 10th homer of the season got the Mariners started after they’d been shut out for six frames by lefty Daniel Norris.
Murphy, who also doubled in the second, lifted a 2-2 slider from Norris over the left-field fence with a 374-foot shot that he wasn’t certain was deep enough off the bat.
“I wasn’t quite sure,” Murphy said. “Obviously getting it in the air is never a bad thing, so I was happy about that. Seeing [left fielder Niko] Goodrum running back, I was hoping it had enough that he couldn’t catch it somehow.”
Murphy, who was released by both the Rockies and Giants before being acquired by the Mariners early this season, has eight homers with 20 RBIs in his last 23 games and his 10 long balls on the year doubles his previous career high of five with the Rockies in 2016.
Combined with Omar Narvaez’s 16 homers, the Mariners duo has already hit the second-most homers by a Seattle catching crew for a full season and is just two shy of the all-time best 28 in ‘17.