BY Steve Rudman 06:00AM 06/05/2017

Mariners Week: Six wins but can’t keep pace

The Mariners enjoyed a 6-1 week, but failed to gain ground on the Houston Astros in the AL West, actually falling further behind in the division race.

Danny Valencia tied a franchise record with hits in nine consecutive at-bats. / Alan Chitlik, Sportspress Northwest file

The Mariners put together one of their best weeks of the season, going 6-1 and ending it with a 7-1 win and sweep of Tampa Bay Sunday at Safeco Field (box). Not that the week did them much good in the standings.

Seattle actually lost ground in the AL West to the Houston Astros, who are rapidly morphing into the 2001 Mariners. Houston won its 10th in a row Sunday (7-2 over Texas) to extend its division lead to 13 games over the Angels and to 13.5 over the Mariners. Two months into the season, Houston has already reduced Seattle into one of many wild card contenders.

The Week

Monday (Mariners 6, at Rockies 5): Sam Gaviglio pitched into the sixth inning in Denver for his first career win and the Mariners used six relievers. 1B Danny Valencia had three hits and 3B Kyle Seager a key double.

Tuesday (Mariners 10, at Rockies 4): Seager homered and drove in four runs, 2B Robinson Cano also connected for a third consecutive win. The Mariners finished 4-4 on a tough eight-game road trip through Washington, Boston and Colorado.

Wednesday (Mariners 5, Rockies 0): Back at Safeco Field, James Paxton and three relievers combined on a four-hitter and Valencia hit a two-run double as the fourth consecutive win matched a season high. Activated off the DL earlier in the day, Paxton retired 16 of the first 17 hitters he faced.

Thursday (Rockies 6, Mariners 3): Mark Reynolds and Nolan Arenado homered to back Kyle Freeland as the Rockies, who had the National League’s best record, finally won one of four against the Mariners.

Friday (Mariners 12, Rays 4): Valencia drilled a three-run homer and tied a career high with five RBIs, LF Taylor Motter also whacked a first-inning grand slam off Jake Odorizzi.

Saturday (Mariners 9, Rays 2): C Mike Zunino, sent to Tacoma for two weeks earlier in the month after struggling offensively, had a seven-RBI night with a two-run double in the second, an RBI single in the fourth and capped a five-run fifth with a grand slam that put the Mariners up 9-1.

Sunday (Mariners 7, Rays 1): Ariel Miranda allowed one run on four hits over nine innings and the Mariners used 11 hits to complete a sweep of the Rays at Safeco Field.

Takeaways

Even if the Astros suffer a meltdown or two (or three) over the remaining four months, Seattle is already too far behind in the division race. Consider: When the Astros defeated the Orioles Tuesday, they opened a 10-game lead in the AL West, becoming the sixth team in the division era (since 1969) to hold a lead of at least 10 games before June 1. The other teams: 1971 Giants, 1977 Dodgers, 1999 Indians, 2001 Mariners and 2007 Red Sox. All won division races.

When the Astros improved to 38-16 Wednesday, they reached the most games above .500 through the end of May since 2001, when the Mariners went 40-12. Houston is 41-16. The 2001 Mariners were 45-12 after 57 games.

Innings of the week

Mariners 3rd Monday: The Mariners provided Gaviglio a 6-2 lead with three runs on just one hit — Gaviglio’s single up the middle.

Mariners 2nd Wednesday: The Mariners took a 3-0 lead after Cruz and Seager opened with singles, both advanced on wild pitches and Valencia followed with a two-run double.

Rockies 2nd Thursday: The Rockies jumped on Yovani Gallardo (2-6) with four runs, Mark Reynolds providing the big blow with a two-run homer to left-center, his 14th.

Mariners 5th Saturday: Ahead 4-1, Seattle had a solo homer from Cruz, then loaded the bases on two singles and a walk, setting the stage for Zunino’s 441-foot slam slam that nearly cleared the left field bleachers.

Good Week/Bad Week

Good: Valencia went 3-for-5 Monday, had two hits and scored a run Wednesday, had a three-run homer and a career-high five RBIs Friday, went 4-for-4 with an RBI Saturday and had hits in nine consecutive at-bats against the Rays over the weekend.  Valencxia is hitting .283 after an April in which he hit .181. Bad: In his start Thursday, Gallardo lasted only three innings and gave up five earned runs.

Not in the box score

  • Gaviglio became the first pitcher in franchise history to notch the first win of his major league career on Memorial Day. Gaviglio had help from four scoreless innings via six relievers.
  • Tuesday the Mariners collected a season-high 19 hits, including four from SS Jean Segura and three each from RF Ben Gamel and LF Guillermo Heredia.
  • Thursday reliever Casey Lawrence pitched five innings in relief of Gallardo, setting a club mark with nine strikeouts by a relief pitcher. The record of eight was done eight times, but not since Julio Mateo Aug. 1, 2003.
  • Cruz, Gamel and C Carlos Ruiz were hit by pitches Thursday, the first time since April 2014 that three Mariners were hit by a pitch in the same game.
  • Friday the lineup’s 6-7-8-9 hitters drove in all runs, starting with Valencia, who knocked in five from the sixth slot. According to Elias, the only other game since 1920 in which the 6-7-8-9 hitters drove in at least 12 runs occurred Aug. 10, 1986, when the Royals scored 13 at Yankee Stadium.
  • Cruz Saturday hit his 100th home run in his 358th career game with the Mariners. That’s the fastest any player has reached 100 homers with Seattle, ahead of Richie Sexson (463 games) and Alex Rodriguez (470).
  • With hits in nine consecutive at-bats Saturday and Sunday against Tampa, Valencia tied the franchise mark set by Raul Ibanez in September, 2004.

James Paxton returned from the disabled list and shut down Colorado Wednesday. / Alan Chitlik, Sportspress Northwest file

Words

“It’s a great challenge. You are trying to create a team environment and closeness, and it’s hard. It’s unheard of at this time of the season.” – Manager Scott Servais Monday on the more than 80 player moves that included 12 starting pitchers

“It gets contagious. Look at Segura. He had four hits today and could have easily had a couple of more. He gets the ball rolling and we can all feed off that. He just needs to get four hits every game and we’ll be pretty good.” – Seager, after the season-high 19 hits Tuesday

“It felt great. It was good to be back out there. Going into the start of the game, I was confident because I’d already gone 100 percent in the bullpen just to make sure that it felt good to go that hard.” – Paxton

“There’s a level of confidence and it’s much needed. And now I can just sort of look for my pitch and attack it. I don’t have to worry about where my body is or doing anything like that. It’s just nice to step in the box and feel like you can hit.” – Zunino, after driving in a career-high seven runs Saturday

Transactions/DL

Tuesday: Activated LHP James Paxton off the 10-day disabled list, optioned RHP Ryne Harper to AAA Tacoma.

Friday: Selected RHP Tyler Cloyd and INF Tyler Smith from Tacoma, placed SS Jean Segura on the 10-day DL with a right high ankle sprain, optioned RHP Casey Lawrence to Tacoma, transferred RHP Ryan Weber to the 60-day DL, designated OF Andrew Aplin for assignment.

Next

The Mariners are off Monday before three-game set starting Tuesday at 7:10 p.m.  with the Minnesota Twins Tuesday at Safeco Field. Paxton (4-0, 1.26) will throw the series opener. The Blue Jays follow the Twins for three over the weekend.


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YourThoughts

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    Mariners can still make 90 wins – if they have all starters back by end of month. That’s not likely. But even if they make 90 they will not catch Houston. If the Astros play .500 ball the rest of the way they’ll finish around 93 wins. So it’s wild card watching in June.

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