The ninth inning has been the magical frame for the Mariners this week, and now Seattle is in position to sweep a three-game series against the Los Angeles Angels on Wednesday afternoon in Anaheim, Calif.
The Mariners have scored nine of their 14 runs in their final at-bat while beating the Angels on back-to-back nights.
Seattle scored four times in the ninth during a 6-2 victory on Monday when the Los Angeles defense fell apart. Then the Mariners’ offense exploded on Tuesday for five in the ninth for an 8-2 win, a final score that makes the game look easier than it really was.
“I’d like to see our club score five runs in the first inning, but that’s not us,” Seattle manager Scott Servais said after his squad won for the fifth time in seven games.
“We play a lot of close games. They’re all important, no matter who you’re playing at this time of year. We have a lot of important games ahead of us.”
Adam Frazier hit a two-run triple in the ninth on Tuesday. Sam Haggerty followed with an RBI single, and then Julio Rodriguez hit a two-run homer, his 19th long ball of the season.
However, seeing All-Star Ty France deliver a two-run single in the sixth was the most pleasing sight to Servais. Angels starter Jose Suarez retired the first 16 batters he faced before Seattle loaded the bases in the sixth with three consecutive singles.
France, who was retired in his first two at-bats to see his personal funk reach 2-for-34, went the opposite way on a full-count fastball from Suarez to tie the score at 2.
“Ty was hitting balls hard, they weren’t falling in,” Servais said. “When that happens, you think about your mechanics. As long as Ty swings at the right pitches and continues to compete, I think in that moment, bases loaded, you forget your mechanics. It hasn’t been easy for him lately.”
While the Mariners are in the thick of the American League wild-card race, the Angels are on their way to missing the playoffs for the eighth straight season.
There is hope that star Mike Trout will return from his back injury later this week. Trout last played on July 12, and Los Angeles interim manager Phil Nevin didn’t think the center fielder would be ready to play Wednesday.
Shohei Ohtani had three hits on Tuesday, and Luis Rengifo drove in both Los Angeles runs with a homer and an RBI single. However, the final five spots in the order went 0-for-20 with 11 strikeouts.
Catcher Max Stassi went 0-for-4 while batting fifth and is hitless in his past 19 at-bats.
“Hitters go into ruts sometimes, and Max is in one now,” Nevin said postgame. “He’s had some big at-bats for us. He’s just struggled a little bit lately, but I believe in him. I trust him.”
Seattle will start right-hander George Kirby (4-3, 3.39 ERA) in the series finale.
The 24-year-old has won his past two starts, the first coming against the Angels on Aug. 6. He allowed one run and six hits over six innings, striking out eight and walking none.
The rookie is 1-1 with a 2.25 ERA in two starts against Los Angeles this season. Ohtani, Jared Walsh and Taylor Ward are each 2-for-6 versus Kirby.
Kirby beat the Texas Rangers in his last turn, giving up two runs and seven hits over 5 2/3 innings on Friday.
The Angels announced after Tuesday’s game that right-hander Touki Toussaint (1-0, 2.70 ERA) will be the Wednesday starter.
Toussaint will be making his fourth appearance and second start for the Angels since being called up from Triple-A Salt Lake in late July. The 26-year-old started against the Oakland Athletics on Aug. 10 and gave up two hits in five scoreless innings en route to a no-decision.
Toussaint has never faced Seattle.