Mariners earn sweep of Rockies with 6-4 victory
Jesus Montero, Justin Smoak, Mike Carp hit homers as Mariners return home after closing trip with success in interleague play.
Seattle Times staff reporter
Texas @ Seattle, 7:10 p.m., ROOT
DENVER — Brandon League turned what seemed to be a comfortable ninth-inning lead into an unexpected nail-biter Sunday at Coors Field.
But Eric Wedge was focusing on the positive after the Mariners had completed a three-game sweep of the reeling Rockies with a 6-4 victory. And to his eyes — perhaps not those of Mariners fans — League was in that category.
"Leaguer had better stuff today," he said. "They did a nice job against him, but it's a bottom-line situation there, and he got it done."
League, who had self-destructed in a loss to Cleveland, gave up two runs on a one-out home run by Dexter Fowler and three straight singles. But after a mound visit by Wedge, he got Troy Tulowitzki to hit into a force before striking out Todd Helton to end it with runners on the corners.
"I just wanted to pump him up a little," Wedge said of his visit. "Let him know this is his game, you're throwing the hell out of the ball, you've got great stuff, you're back on track with all that. ... It wasn't neat, but the one thing I focus on is his stuff, and he really has something to work off from what we saw today."
And so do the Mariners, heading into a series Monday with the powerful Texas Rangers at Safeco Field. Pouncing on a Colorado team that has now lost 13 of 16, the Mariners outscored the Rockies 20-7 in the sweep and hit .295 as a team (31 for 105) with six doubles, four triples and five home runs.
Three of those homers came Sunday as the Mariners provided a cushion for Blake Beavan, who earned his first victory since April 15 with strong relief help from Shawn Kelley, Charlie Furbush and Tom Wilhelmsen. Jesus Montero and Justin Smoak went deep back-to-back in the third — Montero's coming with a runner aboard — while Mike Carp hit his second homer of the series, a second-deck solo shot in the sixth.
Coors Field no doubt played into their power upsurge, as did a Rockies staff that ranks 29th in the majors in earned-run average. But Wedge said he's seeing positive signs from players like Smoak, who hit .351 (13 for 37) on the trip, and Carp, coming off an injury.
"I think it's obvious a lot of these guys offensively are heading in the right direction," Wedge said. "We still need to be pushing with that. I felt they did a good job with sticking with a plan, with laying off some pitches and being ready to hit some pitches."
For the fifth straight game, the Mariners got the lead, using a bit of daring baserunning to jump-start them. With Dustin Ackley on third and Kyle Seager on first, they pulled a delayed double steal that worked perfectly. Rockies second baseman Marco Scutaro threw wildly trying to get Ackley as he broke for the plate, and Seager wound up on third. Smoak then singled home Seager for a 2-0 Mariner lead.
"It was great for us to come out hitting every game here and put runs on the board early," Ackley said. "That's the key for us; when we put up runs early and let our pitchers get in a zone, we're a tough team. When we wait around and don't score early, that's when we find our trouble."
Beavan was lifted after giving up a leadoff double to Michael Cuddyer in the sixth. He didn't have any clean innings, though he minimized the damage by toughening with runners on base.
"I just felt like he was up in the zone a little bit, and didn't feel like he was able to execute pitches, especially with his fastball, which he's so good at," Wedge said of his decision to pull Beavan. "That's his greatest attribute right now. We didn't want anything to get going there, and Kelley came in and did a nice job."
Kelley got out of the jam by getting three outs, striking the last two.
"Obviously, I wanted to keep throwing, but Wedgie has got the better look at stuff like that, who's coming up, how many times we've been through the batting order," Beavan said. "Kelley coming in and shutting those guys down was big momentum for us."
The Mariner lead stood at 6-2 when League came in, his first appearance since he couldn't hold a 5-4 lead in Cleveland. In the interim, he had been working with pitching coach Carl Willis and bullpen coach Jaime Navarro on mechanics and tempo.
Like Wedge, League afterward was focusing on the fact he got out of the inning, even though he had to get out the potential go-ahead run to do so.
"Besides the home run and that first pitch to (Carlos) Gonzalez (an RBI single), I thought my ball was doing what it's supposed to do," he said. "I wasn't 100 percent consistent with it, but for the first time out after working on some things, it was good to see progress."
League talked some more about his mechanical issues and how he appreciated the pep talk from Wedge. Then he paused and smiled wanly.
"We won," he said.