Mariners made seven transactions Sunday and still had time to sweep the Twins. After first Seattle save, reliever Alex Colome said it well: “Different team, same baseball.”
The battery to close out the Mariners’ 3-1 rout (box) — hey, it was more than a one-run win — consisted of Alex Colome on the mound and Chris Hermann behind the plate. They were not in Peoria for spring training. They did not play here in April. As late as 2 p.m. Friday, they were as much a part of Seattle as a free parking spot downtown.
But by 3:30 Sunday afternoon, they combined on a 1-2-3 ninth inning that completed a three-game sweep of the Twins, Seattle’s eighth win in the past nine games despite a major suspension and fresh injuries added to earlier ones.
The roster chaos forced seven transactions Sunday morning just to have a crew sufficient to meet Coast Guard minimums for a rubber-ducky boat float on Green Lake. The total doesn’t count leading hitter SS Jean Segura’s absence while he goes through a concussion protocol after being accidentally kicked in the head during slide into second base Saturday night.
As 1B Ryon Healy, whose two-run double in the eighth inning decided matters, put it:
“It takes a village to win.”
A broad village.
Colome was in Tampa Friday morning, the closer for the Rays. Hermann was in Las Vegas, catching for the Tacoma Rainiers. By Sunday, they were part of the first series sweep of the season for a 32-20 team that has won 15 one-run games (out of 23), most in MLB.
So did you get a chance to talk to the catcher, Alex?
“Yeah,” he said. “On the mound.”
As manager Scott Servais put it, “He’s a serious dude. I’ll leave it at that. All business. A man of very few words.”
Colome, acquired with outfielder Denard Span for two minor league pitching prospects, underscored the point.
“They know me,” he said. “I throw fastball/cutter. They don’t have to talk too much.”
Nine pitches. Six strikes. Three outs.
Colome, who led the American League in saves last season with 47, is going to be the eighth-inning set-up man for the established closer, Eddie Diaz. Colome said the inning makes no difference to him.
“Today was the ninth,” he said. “Tomorrow is the eighth.
“Different team. Same baseball.”
The spare rhetoric is a fit for a team with no room to spare. The Mariners entering Sunday had played six one-run games in a row, tying a club record set in 1991. They won five.
They are doing it with the bare minimum from the banged-up offense. Entering the game, five members of the lineup were hitting .225 or worse — DH Nelson Cruz (.225), 3B Kyle Seager (.219), 2B Gordon Beckham (.182) and SS Andrew Romine (.140). Hermann, 30 and a six-year veteran, was making his MLB debut this season after the call-up from Tacoma, where he had been added after being cut by Arizona March 28.
The Mariners have gone from mere survival to flourishing thanks to starting pitching like Sunday’s outing from Mike Leake — eight innings, four hits, no walks and one run in 86 economical pitches. Leake followed good outings from James Paxton, Marco Gonzales and Wade LeBlanc. Only a bad first inning (four runs) from Felix Hernandez Thursday against Oakland kept the rotation from five-man mastery.
Identified as the team’s weak link out of spring training, the starters since April 20 entering Sunday’s game were 20-10, the second-best winning percentage in MLB, trailing only the Yankees (20-7). In that span, the starters’ collective ERA is 3.27, third in the AL, trailing the Astros and Angels.
The calendar says it’s Memorial Day weekend, so no discerning Mariners fan should be lathering. Nevertheless, the holiday traditionally has been where Seattle exits pennant-race relevancy.
Not this year.
“I really like the way our guys are throwing the ball,” Servais said. “They’re doing what they’re capable of, and executing game plans. I like them a lot, the way they compete. They’re all in in on what we’re trying to do. It’s paying off.”
The current absences of Robinson Cano and Dee Gordon, and the earlier losses of pitchers David Phelps and Erasmo Ramirez, have been compensated for in the short term. It helps to play struggling teams like Minnesota (21-27), then four with Texas (22-33) starting Monday, followed by three with Tampa Bay (25-26), all at home.
Regardless of opponent and injuries, numerous players are getting a chance to establish now that they are major-league capable, and are beginning to understand that Seattle is capable of winning, rather than being the baseball version of Tolkien’s Mordor.
“There’s a belief that good things are going to happen,” Servais said. “Keep it close and we’re going to get somebody on and start something.
“You’re not always going to get it done, but you keep creating opportunities. I like our chances.”
With the acquisitions of Span and Colome, GM Jerry Dipoto has also created major-league depth for the next time a Mariner gets run over by an ice-cream truck or gets chomped on the pitching hand by a random eagle.
When it still gets done when closer and catcher say buenos dias to each other for the first time on the mound, there’s a feeling that the Mariners finally are playing with house money.