SEATTLE -- Tom Murphy hit a no-doubt two-run home run in the second inning, dropped his bat and looked into the Mariners’ dugout as he started to circle the bases.
Turns out he called it and that look was aimed at Seattle hitting coach Tim Laker.
“Early in the day, I was talking to [Laker] about a certain pitch that I wanted to hit for a homer and ended up doing it,” Murphy said. “So I kind of gave a little point to [him], because it’s one of the first things I said to him today.”
That pitch Murphy was looking for was a changeup right down the middle. His burgeoning confidence at the plate led to two home runs that lifted the Mariners to a 5-4 win over the D-backs at T-Mobile Park on Friday night and pushed Seattle one step closer to an American League Wild Card spot.
As they have much of the season -- especially of late -- the Mariners found a way to win. Seattle has 21 games left to earn a postseason berth and is rolling, having won seven of its past nine.
Murphy added a sixth-inning solo homer and his batterymate, left-hander Marco Gonzales, overcame two throwing errors -- including one of his own -- to help the Mariners gain ground in the AL Wild Card race. They’re now one game back of the Yankees for the second spot, a half-game behind the Blue Jays and tied with the A's.
Murphy’s home runs off D-backs starter Madison Bumgarner -- as well as a leadoff homer by J.P. Crawford -- helped Gonzales (8-5) withstand three unearned runs, which had the game tied at 3 in the third. Those were the only runs allowed by Gonzales, who had three strikeouts and one walk in six solid innings.
The first two runs allowed by Gonzales came in the second after Josh Rojas’ hard-hit grounder to second baseman Abraham Toro, who made a diving stop before pulling the throw to first base slightly. The play was ruled an error on first baseman Ty France, his first blemish at first this season.
France, a fill-in at the position after Evan White’s season-ending hip injury, had been error-free in 721 innings and 657 chances at first entering Friday. Henry Ramos followed with his first MLB homer to give Arizona a 2-1 lead. Then in the third, Gonzales walked Ketel Marte, who moved to third when Gonzales missed with a pickoff attempt. Marte then scored on Carson Kelly’s sacrifice fly.
“It was super awkward,” Gonzales said. “I don’t really even have an explanation for it. It was just awkward.”
France put the Mariners back ahead, 4-3, in the fifth with a hard grounder off the glove of shortstop Nick Ahmed that brought home Dylan Moore, and Murphy put the game away in the sixth.
“Always interesting, always entertaining, the 2021 Mariners,” manager Scott Servais said. “It was a nice, nice way to start the homestand, obviously, with the opportunity to pick up a game in standings tonight, which is really nice, as our guys continue to grind through it.”
Few are grinding as hard as Gonzales and Murphy, who have overcome early-season injuries and struggles to become two of Seattle's hottest players down the stretch.
Gonzales has won his last seven decisions over a span of 10 starts since July 9, posting a 2.34 ERA over that stretch. The Mariners are 8-2 in those contests.
“With his ability to locate the fastball at the top rail of the strike zone ... he's as good as anybody,” Servais said. “He's got a ton of confidence out there for a guy throwing 88-90 [mph], he's not afraid. And when he gets it going in that little portion of the strike zone, it’s really tough to hit because it's so unique.”
And Murphy, who missed all of last season with a left foot injury, has turned things around after a tough spring/early summer to rebound on a team overloaded with catchers.
“He got off to a really slow start, and to the point I didn't know if he could kind of work his way out of it,” said Servais, a former catcher himself. “But to his credit, he's been probably one of our most consistent at-bats here over the last week or so, just grinding through it, obviously. His niche is killing the lefties. He stays right on left-handed pitching, and he was right there again tonight.”