Mariners win with a pair of Cruz homers

Three games over .500

By Ryan Divish

The Seattle Times

OAKLAND, Calif. — There have been times during the season it seemed like getting to this point would be an impossibility. And other times when it appeared they were on the verge of getting there, only to be smacked in the face by their own failures and inconsistency.

But for the first time this season, the Seattle Mariners are three games over .500 at 59-56 with Wednesday’s 6-3 win over the Athletics, thanks to two homers from Nelson Cruz and another from Kyle Seager, completing a two-game series sweep.

It’s a small victory in the hopes of a larger overall achievement for Seattle. It’s a start to where the Mariners want to go.

For a long stretch, it was just getting to .500 after such a poor start to the season, which happened on May 10 at 17-17. And after trying and failing to get over .500 multiple times, they accomplished that June 22 at 38-37. Twice prior, they’ve been two games over .500 with the chance to push it to three and failed until now. It’s been a process. But can that process be trusted to find more success given the current state of their starting pitching?

The win over the A’s offered a sign/reminder of how the Mariners have to win games when James Paxton isn’t starting that game — lots of runs scored.

Starter Yovani Gallardo wasn’t good, but he wasn’t terrible. He was just kind of what he’s been much of the season — inefficient and unpredictable. Gallardo pitched 41/3 innings, giving up three runs on six hits, including two homers, with two walks and three strikeouts.

While the quality start — a highly imperfect measure — has been set at six innings pitched and less than three runs allowed, the Mariners have their own version of a “quality start” given their rotation issues this season — five innings pitched and keep the team in the game.

Seattle didn’t really get that in either of their wins against a dismal A’s team.

After rallying from an early four-run deficit Tuesday for the win, the Mariners provided the offense early and tried to piece together the pitching through the game.

Seattle grabbed a 3-0 lead in the first inning when Seager sat on a 1-2 changeup from A’s starter Jharel Cotton, smashing a three-run homer into the seats in deep right-center. It was Seager’s 17th homer of the season.

Given a 3-0 lead before throwing a pitch, Gallardo needed just three pitches to give a run back with Matt Joyce hammering a leadoff homer to center.

But Cruz would provide the rest of the offense. He’s hit some mammoth homers in his career in Oakland, including the memorable shot into the upper deck of dead center. He added to that list in the third inning, destroying a belt high 90-mph fastball and depositing its remains into the stands in deep left-center. MLB statcast measured the blast at 450 feet with a 115 mph exit velocity. It was the highest exit velocity for Cruz on a hit since statcast was introduced.

His second homer off Cotton was equally impressive, a line drive to dead center that slammed off the back wall behind the fence. Statcast measured the blast at 440 feet, but didn’t have measurement on the dent the ball left in the wall.

Gallardo was pulled in the fifth after allowing an RBI double to Jed Lowrie that cut the lead to 6-3. Emilio Pagan came on to pitch the next 22/3 innings scoreless to earn his first big-league win. Tony Zych pitched a 1-2-3 eighth and Edwin Diaz worked a run-free ninth for his 25th save of the season.