Lack of run support and an untimely error didn’t keep Blake Beavan (5-6, 5.54 ERA) from turning in the best performance of his young career.
The six-foot, eight-inch Texan carved through the Tampa Bay Rays lineup Sunday, yielding just one run on four hits in eight innings as the Mariners held on for a 2-1 win in Tampa. After taking two of three from the Rays, Seattle finished the road trip 5-2 and picked up back-to-back series wins on the road for the first time this year.
The outcome appeared uncertain in the eighth when Brendan Ryan committed just his third error of the season, booting a Desmond Jennings grounder to lead off the inning. After Jennings advanced to second on a Jose Molina groundout, Beavan forced Elliot Johnson to tap weakly back to him for the second out. B.J. Upton then capped a series that featured two struggling offenses by popping out to second base.
Beavan finished with five strikeouts and no walks.
“He did a good job of moving his pitches and moving the ball around,” manager Eric Wedge said after his starter won his second consecutive game since being recalled from AAA Tacoma. “He was aggressive and really controlled the ball game.”
Seattle took the lead in the first when Jesus Montero came through with a one-out RBI double. Casper Wells set the table for the club’s No. 3 hitter with a leadoff double but was thrown out trying to advance to third when Ichiro dribbled a poor sacrifice bunt back to the pitcher. The former MVP responded by stealing second and third bases off Tampa Bay starter Matt Moore (6-7, 4.23 ERA) before Montero doubled to deep centerfield.
Seattle’s lead-footed designated hitter went 2-4 to put the finishing touches on his scorching road trip. In seven games, Montero went 12-26 (.462) with nine RBIs.
“It was a real good road trip. It’s tough to win on the road, tough to win in general,” Wedge said. “These guys played tough. You find ways to win ball games. Whether it be with the bats like we did in Kansas City or with our pitching staff like we did here.”
Locked in a duel of offensive futility for the game’s final seven innings, the Mariners escaped St. Petersburg with a win while pushing their season mark to 2-5 against Tampa Bay.
Despite the result, it’s doubtful Wedge’s offense will savor the day.
After a Montero single in the third inning, Moore and reliever Kyle Farnsworth combined to retire the final 20 Mariners hitters they faced. Seattle finished with just five hits, three of which went for extra bases.
Seattle scored the decisive run in the second when Michael Saunders reached on a one-out bunt single. After Chone Figgins struck out swinging, Ryan laced a double down the left-field line to score Saunders. One of four Seattle hitters batting .261, Saunders has been a rare bright spot for Wedge in a season filled with offensive futility.
“He has all the tools and we’ve seen it this year. He puts up tough at bats. To get on base with his speed, he just exploded into second base,” Wedge said after his center fielder outran a pickoff attempt from Moore moments before Ryan drove him in. “That’s just him taking advantage of his skill set and his mindset too.”
Mariners closer Tom Wilhelmsen was forced into action for the third consecutive night after the Mariners failed to tack on insurance runs. “The Bartender” ddisposed of the first two batters he faced, but Matt Joyce doubled off the right-field wall. Jeff Keppinger followed with a walk.
Facing Hideki Matsui for the second time in as many nights, Wilhelmsen forced the struggling former Yankee to fly out to Ryan to end the game. The inning of relief allowed Wilhelmsen pick up his 10th save and lower his ERA to 2.36.
The win moved the Mariners to 25-28 on the road as they return to Seattle for a 10-game home stand that begins Monday with three against the Yankees.
NOTE: Catcher Miguel Olivo earned the “golden sombrero” on Sunday, finishing 0-4 with four strikeouts . . . Wedge opted to hit Wells leadoff in place of a struggling Dustin Ackley . . . Justin Smoak finished 0-3 with a strikeout, dropping his average to a Mendoza-riffic .191… The four Mariners hitting .261 are Wells, Saunders, Ichiro and Montero.