SEATTLE -- Fresh off a contract extension that will keep him with the Mariners at least through next season, Wade LeBlanc earned his money Tuesday night with seven strong innings as Seattle extended its winning streak to eight games with a 4-1 victory over the Angels."Wade is buying," manager Scott
SEATTLE -- Fresh off a contract extension that will keep him with the Mariners at least through next season, Wade LeBlanc earned his money Tuesday night with seven strong innings as Seattle extended its winning streak to eight games with a 4-1 victory over the Angels.
"Wade is buying," manager Scott Servais said after following LeBlanc into the postgame interview room, where the veteran journeyman explained what gaining some financial security meant to him and his family at this point in his career.
LeBlanc has pitched for seven different Major League clubs as well as a stint in Japan, but has found a home in Seattle now with a team that has discovered gold in his mid-80s fastball and pinpoint control.
"It was a big day for him, career-wise," Servais said. "It's good to feel wanted and Wade has been around a number of different places throughout his career. We're certainly seeing the best of Wade LeBlanc right now and looking forward to having him with us in the future. He's done an unbelievable job for us. And again tonight, shutting down a really good-hitting team."
The Mariners equaled their longest win streak since Sept. 7-14, 2016, with the series-opening victory and are now a season-high 24 games over .500 at 55-31.
Houston beat the Rangers to retain a half-game lead over Seattle in the American League West, but the Mariners kept putting distance between themselves and the Angels in the Wild Card race as the Halos are now 43-43, 12 games back of Seattle and four behind Oakland.
LeBlanc allowed just three hits and one run -- on a solo homer by Andrelton Simmons -- in his seven innings as he improved to 4-0 with a 3.19 ERA. The Mariners are 9-3 in games started by the 33-year-old lefty, who became a starter in early May and has developed into a key part of a rotation that has gone 25-8 since May 8.
"Each time I go out there, I'm more comfortable with who I am as a pitcher," LeBlanc said. "I've always known who I am as a person, but to understand the stuff I have and it's good enough to pitch at this level if I execute and use it correctly, to understand proper sequencing and what guys are trying to do off of me. I understand and am more comfortable and confident with who I am as a pitcher."
LeBlanc retired Michael Trout three straight times on a pair of groundouts and an infield pop fly, which is something for a Mariners' team that has struggled to contain the Angels star. Trout was 16-for-25 with 10 extra-base hits -- including five homers -- and nine RBIs in his first six games against Seattle this year. Shohei Ohtani also went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts in his first game off the disabled list.
The Mariners scored three runs in the first off Andrew Heaney (4-6, 3.99 ERA), with a two-run, bases-loaded double by Kyle Seager the big blow. Nelson Cruz then scooted home from third on a strikeout of Ryon Healy, who reached base on a wild pitch as the ball got by catcher Martin Maldonado.
Cruz added a solo blast leading off the eighth against reliever Noe Ramirez for his 22nd homer of the year. That was all the offense Seattle needed as LeBlanc cruised through a 95-pitch outing with four strikeouts.
"We're finding a way to get it done," said Cruz. "But like I've been saying, it's pitching. Our pitching has been the difference. And we're scoring enough to win games."
Edwin Diaz closed out the ninth for his Major League-leading 33rd save and the Mariners are 41-0 in games when he's entered with a lead. His 33 saves are tied for the third-most in MLB history prior to the All-Star break behind only the 38 of the Angels' Francisco Rodriguez in 2008 and 34 by Atlanta's John Smoltz in '03.
MOMENT THAT MATTERED
Servais chose to intentionally walk Trout -- and put the go-ahead run at the plate -- in the top of the eighth after Alex Colome gave up a one-out double to Kole Calhoun, who then advanced to third on a deep flyout by David Fletcher. Rather than risk Trout tying the game with a blast, the Mariners walked him and let Colome face Justin Upton. The ploy worked perfectly as Upton flied out to center.
"It was maybe an unconventional time," said Servais, "but he's a great player, having a great season. They have a lot of good players on their team, but not at the level Mike Trout's at, so we were going to take our chances with some of the other guys."
LeBlanc has now made 12 consecutive starts this season without recording a loss, which is the longest active streak in the Majors and tied for third longest on the season. The longest for the year? That would be teammate James Paxton with 14 earlier in the season. Going back to his previous stint with Seattle in 2016, LeBlanc has now started 20 career games with the Mariners and is 7-0 with a 2.89 ERA.
HE SAID IT
"To be honest, I felt my career was over after Japan. We didn't have a whole lot of bites and the agent I have now was able to scrounge up some interest and here we are. It's been a huge blessing and I'm very thankful and humbled by this extension. I'll try to make good on it." -- LeBlanc, who pitched in Japan in 2015 before returning on a Minor League deal with the Blue Jays and eventually getting traded to Seattle the first time in '16
The Mariners will send Mike Leake to the hill to start Wednesday afternoon opposite the Angels' Garrett Richards at Safeco Field. Leake has gone 1-1 in his two starts against the Angels this season, getting tagged with the loss in a 5-0 defeat in May but pitching six innings of one-run ball on June 12 to earn a victory. The current Angels roster is hitting .313 against Leake. First pitch on the Fourth of July is scheduled for 1:10 p.m. PT.
Greg Johns has covered the Mariners since 1997, and for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB.