This was one of those matchups that, on paper, really shouldn’t have been that close. You had Cy Young Award contender Yu Darvish, who has been striking out guys left and right of late, taking on “Mr. Five Innings” Erasmo Ramirez and a Mariners lineup not exactly stacked with big bat threats.
But the Mariners kept poking away at the Rangers, who also allowed Seattle to hang around by making some defensive gaffes as well as offensive ones on the bases. The result was, the Mariners were still alive and kicking by the eighth and ninth innings, scoring in each of those — including the decisive marker on a Kyle Seager double to right.
The Seager at-bat was typical of his team’s approach as a whole on this day. He was down 0-2 early on, but kept staying alive and eventually prevailed.
“When you get down 0-2 against a guy like him, you pretty much just have to calm down,’’ Seager said of Darvish. “You can’t let his good stuff and everything get you over-excited. That’s what he kind of feasts on. You’ve just got to stay calm, stay with you approach and look for a pitch you can hit.’’
Michael Saunders had shown similar fight in an earlier at-bat in the sixth inning, down 1-2 early before coming up with an RBI double to right of his own.
“At that point, I was just looking to try to put the ball in play,’’ Saunders said. “He’d thrown two fastballs by me and tried finishing me with the breaking stuff. I was just battling.
“I was expecting a fastball more than anything because of what he threw me earlier in the at-bat,’’ he added. “But he threw me another breaking ball and I just ended up putting the barrel on the ball.’’
Saunders had three hits on the day, with two more from Dustin Ackley, who drove in a big run in the eighth to give Seattle a 3-2 lead. It looked like that might be enough to get Ramirez the win after his seven tough innings of four-hit ball, no walks and just two runs — one earned — allowed. Yoervis Medina would torch that chance, but that still doesn’t take away from Ramirez’s best performance since his Class AAA callup.
“During the game, I just stayed focused on throwing strikes,’’ Ramirez said. “I didn’t think about playing Texas, one of the best teams right now. I didn’t think much about names. I just went and did my work.’’
And so did the Mariners. The Rangers? They did not. Too many mistakes that helped keep the Mariners in it. A little too nonchalant in how they played this finale. I’m still not sold on the Rangers as a strong playoff team and maybe it’s because of how the Mariners have now taken the last two series from them here.
But this was a nice bounceback by a Seattle club throttled 15-3 last night. Interim manager Robby Thompson liked how the entire lineup battled Darvish all day, forcing him from the game at 120 pitches with one out in the eighth.
“All down the lineup,’’ Thompson said. “Against one of the best pitchers in the game of baseball right now. Each time we’ve faced him, we seem to battle him pretty well.’’
And in the end, when the Mariners needed a strong at-bat in the ninth, Seager delivered.
“Not a knock on anyone else, but when a game’s on the line like that, it’s Kyle Seager,’’ Thompson said. “I don’t care whether he’s coming out of a slump or not. He’s a battler up there, he went down and got the ball. He’s a gritty grinder and…he knows how to battle with two strikes.’’
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