When Justin Smoak delivered with his bat to give the Mariners a 4-3 lead over Texas in the eighth inning Friday night, he had no idea he would win the game with his glove as well.
After the Mariners scored four runs in the eighth inning to give closer Fernando Rodney a three-run cushion in the ninth, Rodney struggled to find the strike zone. He walked two batters and hit another. Suddenly, the 6-3 lead dwindled to 6-5 with one out and the bases loaded. Enter Smoak.
Former Mariner Adrian Beltre hit a bullet down the first-base line. But Smoak made a lightning-quick leap to his left to snag the ball and begin a game-ending, unassisted double play that preserved the 6-5 win over the Rangers in front of 31,145 at Safeco Field.
“I kinda blacked out there for a second,” Smoak said. “Line drive and jumped and stretched as far as I could stretch . . . Good win for us.”
Seattle entered the eighth trailing Texas 3-2. Opponents dominated the M’s to the tune of 18-0 in the eighth frame this season. Friday, Seattle finally gained the upper hand.
On a full count with the bases loaded and no outs, Smoak pulled a double down the left field line to drive in two runs. Kyle Seager followed with a bloop RBI single. A wild pitch brought in the inning’s fourth run for a 6-3 lead.
For Smoak, the two RBI extended his team lead to 14.
“The 3-2 pitch was a cutter and I didn’t really barrel it, but was able to get enough of it to get it out there,” said Smoak. “With two strikes, just trying to get it out in the field somewhere.”
The victory comes a game after Seager’s streak-snapping, walk-off homer Wednesday and builds some momentum. Important, considering there are two more games against the AL West division-leading Rangers before heading out on a 10-game road trip.
Roenis Elias pitched a gritty 5.2 innings, only to walk away with a no-decision. After retiring the first six Rangers, Elias faltered.
In the third, the Rangers took a 1-0 lead thanks to a leadoff double by J.P. Arencibia, a sacrifice bunt by Leonys Martin and a wild pitch.
Texas got to Elias again in the fourth when Beltre hit a double just out of the reach of centerfielder Abraham Almonte to score Elvis Andrus, aboard on a walk.
In the fifth inning, Seattle’s $240 million addition, Robinson Cano, stroked his first extra-base hit at Safeco Field as a Mariner when he doubled home two runs. Cano finished 2-for-4 with two RBI and a run scored.
Elias had command issues in the fourth and sixth innings, but limited the Rangers to just one more run, for which manager Lloyd McClendon was thankful.
“I thought he threw the ball pretty darned good,” McClendon said of his young left-hander. “He stressed himself the one inning . . . other than that, I don’t think he was really stressed most of the game.
“He did a heckuva job for us.”
Rodney wasn’t sharp and had the crowd on edge. But he came away with a save.
“That’s Fernando,” McClendon said. “Most of the times, he’s going to have you on the top step, but in the end he gets it done.”
Corey Hart was one of four Mariners hitters to be hit by a pitch. He took a fastball to the knee and was pinch-run for by Michael Saunders in the eighth inning. McClendon said he would know more Saturday . . . Injured lefty starter James Paxton played catch from 45 feet for five minutes. Paxton said he had “no pain and felt very strong” during the session. If he feels good Saturday, he will play catch for another five minutes, this time from 60 feet. A throwing program will then be designed.