Mariners win in extra innings to take series versus Pirates

Eugenio Suarez hits walkoff homer, as the Mariners overcome late bullpen collapse to beat the Pirates 6-3 in the rubber match.

The Mariners have been frustratingly inconsistent this season, struggling to win and often in closely contested games. Fans had to wonder if the same thing was going to happen again on Sunday afternoon.

The Mariners had forged their way to a hard-fought 3-1 lead through seven innings. Then the usually reliable bullpen allowed two runs in the top of the eighth, to subsequently take the game to extra innings.

Seattle has been playing better of late, beginning to come through with wins on a more consistent basis. Regardless, there was concern they were going to once again lose a game which was there for the taking.

Suarez’s moment to shine

Step forward Eugenio Suarez. With two outs and two runners on base, the opportunity was there, albeit with little margin for error.

Suarez will be the first to admit he hasn’t been his usual effective self so far this season. This was highlighted by entering Sunday with just five home runs, projected to be his worst per-game rate since his rookie year in 2014.

So of course the 2018 All-Star proceeded to belt a walkoff three-run homer to end the game. It was the second walkoff home run of his career.

Suarez gave his account of the circumstances surrounding his at-bat. He said:

“I knew that if Julio got out, they were going to walk Jarred and try to get me. I was thinking, ‘This is your time and you’ve got to do something right here’. I’m going to be honest, I’m not trying to hit a homer. I’m just trying to put a ball in play and I got a big hit.”

Mariners manager Scott Servais discussed his faith in Suarez during pressure situations. He said:

“It’s veteran presence that Geno brings in those situations. He doesn’t panic, doesn’t try to overdo it. He was just looking for something that he can handle. He’s just very calm. He went up to the plate with a plan. He got a pitch and put a great swing on it.”

As a result of the victory, the Mariners improved to 28-25 – the first time they’ve been three games above .500 this season. They are finally starting to roll, as evidenced by winning six of their past seven games.

Gonzales puts in a fine outing

Helping put Seattle in a position to win was a strong start by Marco Gonzales. He allowed just three hits and one earned run in 5.2 innings, while also striking out four batters.

The only real downside — if you want to call it that — was allowing three walks. The last one led to the decision to remove Gonzales from the game.

The 2013 first round draft pick was understandably unhappy with not being allowed to complete the sixth. Speaking afterwards to the media, he said:

“I know that I can finish that inning right there. I know that I have the utmost confidence from out staff, but I just really wanted that last out of the sixth for sure.”

As a result of being removed when he was, Gonzales just missed out on his fifth quality start of the season. Regardless, Seattle has won seven of the 10 games he’s pitched in, which is excellent given his uninspiring 5.22 ERA and 1.460 WHIP.

Matt Brash came in to get the last out of the inning via a strikeout. Fans will be hoping this helps build the confidence of the under-fire reliever.

Young Mariners star duo both produce

The Mariners had forged ahead to a 3-1 lead through seven innings, thanks to significant contributions from their young stars Julio Rodriguez and Jarred Kelenic. If they can both regularly get clicking at the same time, it’s going to cause major headaches for opposing pitchers.

Rodriguez got things going with a solo homer in the bottom of the first for an early 1-0 lead. He had two hits on the day and is now on a seven-game hitting streak, which has boosted his batting average from .204 to .242.

Cal Raleigh hit a solo home run of his own in the bottom of the fourth, to make it 2-0. Pittsburgh got to within 2-1 in the top of the fifth, before Kelenic made his mark in the bottom of the inning.

The 23-year-old came up to face a one runner on, two-out situation. Unfazed, he proceeded to rip an RBI double, to make it 3-1 Mariners.

Kelenic had been on a mini-slump with a season-high three-game hitless streak. However, he now has hits in his last two games and overall continues to be Seattle’s most consistent bat.

Usually reliable bullpen has their challenges

With victory seemingly in reach, the usually reliable Justin Topa came in to pitch the top of the eighth. However, he allowed two hits and a run while managing just one out.

As such, the usually even more reliable Paul Sewald was brought in to finish the inning. However, his wild pitch led to the Pirates tying the game at 3-3, for his first blown save in 12 attempts this season.

Fortunately for everyone concerned, Suarez’s heroics saved the day. However, Taylor Saucedo also deserves credit for putting his teammate in a position to win the game.

Saucedo pitched the top of the 10th and found himself in a precarious two-out, bases-loaded situation. He keep his cool though, with his third strikeout of the inning to end the threat and keep the score at 3-3.

Servais talked about his satisfaction with the series win versus Pittsburgh. He said:

“I know we got off to a rough start there with all the home runs we gave up in game one, but the last two days we’ve pitched just outstanding. The Pirates have a good young team. They’re scrappy, they control the strike zone very well and they can really pitch, so winning the series is nice.”

Next up, the Mariners face an intriguing home series versus the Yankees, who sit three-games ahead of them in the final AL wild card spot. Bryce Miller will get the start on Monday night, in arguably the biggest test yet of his young Major League career.

Have the Mariners now done enough to convince you they are set to win on a more consistent basis moving forward? Or do you still need to see more before making any such predictions? Let us know in the comments section below.

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