Blake Beavan throws 8 innings, Mariners edge Tampa Bay 2-1
Despite getting no hits after the third inning, Mariners take the game and the series against the Rays.
Seattle Times staff reporter
N.Y. Yankees @ Seattle, 7:10 p.m., ROOT Sports
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — They cobbled together a lineup with four batters hitting below .200 and which managed only a single after the second inning.
And yet, the Mariners somehow managed to win the series here on Sunday, 2-1 over the Tampa Bay Rays, when Blake Beavan became the latest Seattle pitcher to step up huge when needed. Beavan finally overcame a long-held reluctance to mix his secondary pitches in with authority and managed to handcuff the Rays on pop-ups, ground balls and five strikeouts.
That enabled the Mariners to finish off this trip with a 5-2 record despite a brutal offensive showing in a series that once again raised questions about the immediate futures of young cornerstones Justin Smoak and Dustin Ackley.
"That's what happens when you mix your pitches up," Beavan said. "You get them off-balance. Your fastball starts playing a little better. And for me today, that was my goal. Going in there and mixing it up."
The Rays certainly looked off-kilter at Tropicana Field in front of 20,908 fans, who grew increasingly impatient as the game progressed. Tampa Bay had a chance to tie it with two on and two out in the ninth, but Hideki Matsui popped out on his first pitch from closer Tom Wilhelmsen, earning a loud chorus of boos.
It was tough to tell what to make of the Mariners in this series after their bats obliterated some subpar Royals pitching in Kansas City. The Mariners came in here — where they had lost 11 of 12 — and struck out 40 times in three games against some of the Rays' lesser-known arms.
They scored two runs the final 13 innings of Friday's loss and didn't score after the opening frame of Saturday's unlikely win. On Sunday, they did all of their scoring by the second inning before Rays starter Matt Moore and the bullpen retired the final 20 hitters.
Still, the Mariners somehow managed to win.
"These guys played tough," Mariners manager Eric Wedge said. "You find ways to win ballgames. Whether it be with the bats like we did in Kansas City, or with the pitching staff, like we did here."
It remains to be seen what the carry-over will be once the Mariners return to Safeco Field. Wedge knows he got away with one Sunday after starting now .198-hitting Miguel Olivo at cleanup and watching him strike out four times.
Ackley was on the bench after a terrible start to the second half, while Smoak went 0 for 3 and finished the trip on an 0-for-16 skid with seven strikeouts.
One of a handful of bright spots for the Mariners was Jesus Montero, who collected a run-scoring double in the first inning. The first of two hits by Montero scored Ichiro, who had stolen second base and then third after reaching on a poor bunt attempt that got Casper Wells thrown out at third.
"You've got to be patient and calm and hit the good pitches," Montero said. "I know good things are going to happen."
After the Rays tied the score off Beavan in the bottom of the first, Michael Saunders reached on a second-inning bunt to the right side. He then managed to steal second despite Moore making a pickoff move to first base, and later scored on Brendan Ryan's double.
And that was it.
The Mariners scored 21 of their 38 runs on their seven-game trip in the first two innings — a span of 14 innings.
"He did a great job with his fastball," Wedge said of Beavan. "He moved it around, in and out, up and down. But his secondary stuff was big for him.
"He just did a good job mixing his pitches and moving the ball around."
Wilhelmsen entered in the ninth and unveiled a bit of a new weapon — a changeup — mainly against left-handers. He struck out Carlos Pena, then got a swinging strike with it on Ben Zobrist before a ground out.
"I want something else to throw to lefties and that's what we're working with right now," he said.
Beavan took care of the rest, especially in the eighth when speedy Desmond Jennings reached on an error. Two ground outs later, Beavan got B.J. Upton to pop out to end the threat.
"That was a real momentum shifter right there," Beavan said.
As were the final two rather-fortunate wins on a trip that could have ended much differently.
Geoff Baker: 206-464-8286 or firstname.lastname@example.org.