These are the games any good team has to find a way to win, especially on a night when staff ace Felix Hernandez is dealing like he was. A Mariners offense with some big expectations on it looked like the offense of old at times tonight, but still came away with a 2-0 win by making a big play when it was needed.
I mean, the Mariners struck out 11 times tonight. They went down in order on strikes in the first inning and again in the eighth inning. They had just five hits all night and barely knocked any balls beyond the infield.
But they found a way to win. By getting some nice baserunning by two guys who found themselves just above and just below .200 in batting average last season.
Dustin Ackley and Brendan Ryan came through with the nice baserunning after Ryan’s single in the fifth. Instead of first and second with one out, there were runners on second and third with one out and Franklin Gutierrez didn’t have to worry about any double play grounders.
A’s ace Brett Anderson is a ground ball machine, so yes, a double play being in order in that situation would have changed things big-time. But with runners at second and third, the defense is different and Gutierrez has a bit less pressure on him.
“That’s what Ack and I are going to be doing all year,’’ Ryan said. “Hopefully, the bottom of the lineup is getting on base and just getting things started for the top of the lineup.’’
Ryan downplayed his own, fairly significant contribution to the whole play. Indeed, it was Ackley who had to make the read on Ryan’s blooper and then beat the arm of right fielder Josh Reddick, one of the best in the game.
“He made a great read,’’ Ryan said. “It was a good time to be aggressive and it worked out. But that’s something we want to do. We want to be aggressive at the right times and feel like most of the time it’s going to work out for us and live with it when it doesn’t.”
Ackley said he looked at the ball once just to be sure, but then took off and never wavered. He’d hoped that center fielder Coco Crisp would get to the ball instead of the stronger-armed Reddick, but was prepared for a close play in any event.
“I think it’s important to have those guys in scoring position,’’ Ackley said. “At first and second right there, the double play would be in order and stuff like that so it just changes the whole dynamic of it. Brendan (Ryan) did a nice job of getting to second on that. That was huge. That was kind of overlooked, I think.’’
So, the Mariners win a pretty big game in which there was atmosphere in the stadium from a pumped-up crowd — still on a high from the A’s winning the AL West last year — and a dominant staff ace in Anderson shutting them down. The middle of the order did nothing but manage an infield single by Michael Morse, but Seattle still came out on top.
Ryan was at his defensive best all night long, including a fourth inning play on Yoenis Cespedes to save a run by going deep to his left for a grounder heading up the middle with John Jaso at third.
Hernandez celebrated demonstratively on the mound after the narrow escape.
“You know that guy is one of the best out there,’’ Hernandez said of Ryan.
Mariners manager Eric Wedge said Hernandez looked at his best out there for most of the night. Wedge also felt Anderson was matching him pitch-for-pitch and knew somebody would have to do something a bit out of the ordinary like Ackley and Ryan managed to in the fifth.
“You could tell early on that he had good stuff,’’ Wedge said of Anderson. “So, we knew when we had opportunities, we were going to have to take advantage of them. And we did.’’
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