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Thursday, August 23, 2012 - Page updated at 09:00 p.m.
Mariners win eighth straight game
By Geoff Baker
Seattle Times staff reporter
Kyle Seager knew he had to look for something more on a day his Mariners had managed just three hits by the eighth inning.
So, when Seager lined what looked like a single to right-center field with one out in the eighth, he took off out of the batter's box thinking two bases. A headfirst slide just beat the tag to begin the decisive rally of a 3-1 victory over the Cleveland Indians.
And that was the story of an eighth consecutive victory by the Mariners on Wednesday afternoon to cap a homestand that could transform this team's season if these results continue. As was the case much of this series against a determined Indians squad, the Mariners needed to make timely plays both at the plate and in the field to come out on top.
"In the eighth inning right there, you've got to take a chance," Seager said. "I was running pretty hard out of the box, so if I was going to shut it down I would have shut it down late."
The throw was in plenty of time, but Seager also pulled a nice switcheroo with his hands at the last minute during his slide to confuse Indians shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera as he tried to apply the tag. The switch enabled Seager to sneak a hand onto the bag ahead of a tag near his chest.
Cabrera couldn't believe the call, and Indians manager Manny Acta was ejected after coming out to argue. An intentional walk to John Jaso put two on and then — with two out — Eric Thames lined a double down the right-field line off relief pitcher Vinnie Pestano to score two runs.
The Mariners haven't won eight in a row since the final games managed by Mike Hargrove midway through the 2007 season. Seattle has won 15 of 16 at Safeco Field — including this one, played in front of 18,578 spectators — to move three games from .500.
"It all adds up," Mariners manager Eric Wedge said. "We've got a bunch of guys out there that are each doing what they need to do to help us win ballgames. All the little things add up."
Wedge's team has an off day Thursday before heading to Chicago for three games against the White Sox, then four games at Minnesota. The road had proved to be a comfort zone for the Mariners until this 8-1 homestand, when they began hitting for more power and scoring with greater consistency.
Michael Saunders hit his fourth home run in as many days, off Zach McAllister in the first inning, to get the scoring started. And then, after the Indians tied it in the sixth with a Casey Kotchman dribbler up the third-base line against Oliver Perez, Thames came through again.
Thames hit a tiebreaking, two-run homer in the seventh inning of the series opener Monday to carry the Mariners to victory. Tuesday, his fifth-inning solo homer was Seattle's first hit and he later added a triple. He was 0 for 3 Wednesday with three strikeouts against McAllister's sinking two-seam fastballs, but then, against Pestano, he ripped a four-seam fastball down the line.
"I know how he's attacked me in the past with a four-seamer," Thames said. "I just wanted to get my head out on the fastball and didn't miss it. Up here, you can't miss the heaters."
Mariners starter Hisashi Iwakuma allowed base runners in all but one inning he worked, yet held Cleveland in check until Perez relieved him with two out in the sixth and allowed Kotchman's infield single.
Tom Wilhelmsen closed the ninth for his 19th save to help the Mariners already match their 61 victories from a dismal 101-loss campaign in 2010. Many of the faces helping the Mariners win were nowhere near the team two years ago, another sign the franchise might be turning a significant page.
"We've been doing what it takes to win," Seager said. "We've been throwing the ball really well. Our pitching has been outstanding. And we've been able to get some clutch hits."
At a clutch point in a season that no longer looks as lost as it did a month ago.
Geoff Baker: 206-464-8286 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
On Twitter @gbakermariners
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