Mariners' hitters make enough adjustments to spark a comeback
Seattle now has won 10 of past 12
Seattle Times staff reporter
Mariners @ N.Y. Yankees, 4:05 p.m., ROOT Sports
It seems like just yesterday Mariners manager Eric Wedge used the word "dumb" as a possibility for why his hitters were unable to make in-game adjustments.
Now, seven consecutive victories and counting, the adjustments are coming fast and furious, and against some pretty good pitchers. Of course, it helps in games like this 5-3 comeback victory Wednesday night over the Toronto Blue Jays when newcomer Eric Thames can hit a towering shot over the center-field wall.
But while the Thames blast propelled the Mariners back into the contest, it took continued offense and pressure by his teammates to extend this winning streak longer than any by the team in five years.
"I think we're getting nice, timely hits," said John Jaso, who drove home the go-ahead run in the sixth after Thames tied it in the fifth. "We're getting hits with runners on base and those things are what make you grab the win."
They got the hits in this one on a night when previously-unbeaten Toronto starter Carlos Villanueva looked like he would make the Mariners his pet as so many other pitchers have done this year. Early home runs by Colby Rasmus in the first and Kelly Johnson in the fourth helped Villanueva to a 3-1 lead as he rolled into the fifth with just two singles allowed.
But then the Mariners began to pick up on the off-speed stuff he threw early in counts. One turn through the order, they began to connect with more frequency.
Then, with Thames up for his second Seattle at-bat in the fifth, the term "connect" took on an entirely different meaning. With two out and Mike Carp on base, Thames ignited the Safeco Field crowd of 22,537 with a towering drive that traveled an estimated 411 feet and landed well beyond the center-field wall, tying the score at 3.
Those who have watched the Mariners at home all season don't often see balls blasted that deep, to that part of the ballpark. Especially not off the bat of someone from a Mariners team that has struggled to hit at home most of the year.
"I went into the homerless territory, as everyone says," said Thames, acquired from Toronto on Monday for pitcher Steve Delabar.
Thames and Villanueva — who came in 6-0 with a 2.92 earned-run average — teamed in Class AAA together for a good part of the past two seasons.
"It's different when you're playing behind somebody and then facing him," Thames said. "Because I knew his off-speed is plus-plus and that he likes to locate. Guys like that are tough in general, so I looked at video, I talked to (Michael) Saunders and some of the other guys and we collaborated on approaches."
Saunders kept the momentum going with a one-out double ripped off the right-field wall in the sixth. Jaso came up next — having struck out twice his first two times up — and singled to center to put Seattle up 4-3.
"We kind of knew that coming into the game that he was going to come with a lot of off-speed stuff," Jaso said. "His fastball was kind of like his fourth pitch."
Blake Beavan began adjusting to Toronto hitters a bit better as the game wore on. He escaped a fifth inning jam thanks to a Blue Jays baserunning error, then retired seven of his final eight batters once Thames tied it for Seattle.
"So many people talk about how we don't score runs at home and we're not getting the job done at home," said Beavan. "But I think we've kind of turned that around here and kind of taken it upon ourselves to pick it up and do better. To take more accountability and go out there and play like there's no tomorrow."
There might be only two months of tomorrows ahead for a team buried too deep in last place to make any type of postseason run. But this fun week of baseball at least doesn't have Wedge questioning his hitters' intelligence anymore when it comes to adjusting in-game.
"The ability to make an adjustment, people think about it from game-to-game, but really it needs to be at-bat-to-at-bat," Wedge said. "And eventually from pitch-to-pitch as these guys get further along. And they're all moving, for the most part, in the right direction."
Geoff Baker: 206-464-8286 or firstname.lastname@example.org.