Smoak delivers, leads Mariners to win
Justin Smoak hit a go-ahead, two-run double in the eighth inning, and Raul Ibanez hit a crucial home run for the second game in a row as the Mariners edged the Tampa Bay Rays 6-4 on Friday to snap a six-game losing streak at Safeco Field.
Seattle Times staff reporter
Finally, something for the home crowd to celebrate.
Justin Smoak hit a go-ahead two-run double in the eighth inning, and Raul Ibanez hit a crucial home run for the second night in a row as the Mariners edged the Tampa Bay Rays 6-4 on Friday to snap a six-game losing streak at Safeco Field.
Seattle was swept in its last homestand but started another in exciting fashion after blowing a lead earlier in the eighth.
The rally began when Kyle Seager hit a ball to deep left-center field that popped out of the glove of a sprinting Desmond Jennings for a two-base error. Kendrys Morales followed with a walk, setting up the big hit that would come one out later.
Smoak crushed a line drive to right field off Rays relief pitcher Joel Peralta (2-6) that just eluded the diving effort of Wil Myers, scoring Seager and pinch-runner Abraham Almonte.
“Those are the difference in those games,” said manager Eric Wedge. “We’re in pretty much every game. You look at our losses this year and how many tough losses have we had? How many games have we been in where we were a hit or play or pitch away? Tonight we were on the good side, which was good to see.”
Off the bat, Smoak feared Myers would be able to make the catch.
“I was just praying it’d get down,” he said. “Luckily, it hit some grass out there.”
Closer Danny Farquhar made sure the advantage wasn’t blown in the ninth, earning his 13th save in front of 14,796 fans.
The game’s big hit looked like it was going to come from Ibanez, who extended Seattle’s lead to 4-2 with a solo home run to lead off the fourth inning. It was his 27th of the season, third-most of any MLB player 41 years or older and just two shy of Ted Williams’ record of 29 set in 1960.
Ibanez had hit the game-tying home run in the ninth inning Thursday, though the M’s lost 7-6 in Kansas City in 13 innings. Homers in back-to-back nights looks even more impressive considering the veteran outfielder had one home run in a 35-game stretch from July 13 to Wednesday.
For Ibanez, the home run was nice, but the win was better.
“To be able to come back and pick our guys up like that, that’s really what team baseball is all about,” he said.
Victory was hardly certain for the Mariners as starter Hisashi Iwakuma didn’t make it through six innings, his shortest outing in seven starts. The Rays cut the lead to 4-3 off Iwakuma with two outs in the sixth when Jose Molina singled to bring home Delmon Young after an international walk.
Reliever pitcher Yoervis Medina got Seattle out of the inning, but Iwakuma was denied his team-leading 13th win in the eighth.
The buildup to the tying run started when Oliver Perez allowed a leadoff walk to James Loney. Carter Capps came in and quickly allowed a single to Myers.
Capps picked off pinch-runner Sean Rodriguez at second base and then got pinch-hitter David DeJesus to hit into a heart-stoppingly deep fly out to right field. But the next pinch-hitter, Luke Scott, smacked a double just out of the reach of right fielder Michael Saunders, a defensive replacement for Ibanez, which scored Myers from first.
Deflation soon became elation as Seattle answered in the bottom of the inning, giving the Mariners their first triumph at home since Aug. 11.
• James Paxton, another of Seattle’s touted young pitchers, will make his MLB debut Saturday as the Mariners’ starter for the second game of the series. “I’m excited, excited to watch him,” said Wedge before Friday’s game.