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Unlike his previous start in Seattle, the Mariners didn’t let Astros pitcher Collin McHugh turn into Nolan Ryan against them.
This result was much more expected, the Mariners banged out eights and scored six runs (five earned) off of McHugh knocking him from the game after four innings and setting an early tone in a 8-7 win at Minute Maid Park on Sunday.
Of course, the Mariners being the Mariners, scoring eight runs didn’t mean a drama-free victory. Danny Farquhar picked up his first save of the season, filling in for Fernando Rodney. Farquhar needed to pitch two innings and survive the tying run coming to the plate on four different occasions, but still hung on to secure the win for Seattle.
“I didn’t want that,” Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon said of the two-inning save. “It is what it is and we were where we were at that time, but he did a great job and our bullpen is cleaned up as a result of it.”
The victory meant a series win against a team they should beat, but haven’t with any consistency. They are now 3-3 against the Astros this season. And while Friday night’s loss was ugly, the Mariners have still won five of their last six games and seven of their last nine. In the baseball is weird category, the two losses in that stretch were both to the Astros (10-21) with ace Felix Hernandez pitching. Seattle is now one game away from a .500 record at 14-15.
Manager Lloyd McClendon liked what he saw offensively.
“We are putting good at-bats out there, having purpose to what we’re doing,” McClendon said. “It’s like I told the guys: ‘it’s not going to always work, but at least give it a chance, at least know what you’re doing, what the guy has and what they expect from you.’ The guys have swung the bat good the last couple days.”
It also helped having seen McHugh recently and adjusting from that previous failure.
“We had no knowledge of him the first time and the young man threw the ball pretty good,” McClendon said. “This time I thought we had better at-bats, gave him stressful at-bats. His pitch count was up and we were able to take advantage of it.”
Brandon Maurer picked up his first win of the season, pitching five innings, giving up four runs on six hits with two walks and three strikeouts in Seattle’s 8-7 win at Minute Maid Park on Sunday.
It wasn’t the prettiest of outings. But all involved believe that Maurer made some progress in meeting his enormous potential as a big league pitcher.
“It was a battle, but I saw something in the kid that I liked today,” McClendon said. “I saw some fortitude, some guts.”
Like so many starts, there were times when Maurer looked dominant and others where he struggled, particularly with runners on base.
The seminal moment came in the fifth inning. His teammates had given him a 7-3 lead and it looked as though he was squandering it.
Maurer gave up a lead-off homer to Jonathan Villar to start the inning. He then walked Jose Altuve and gave up a single to Dexter Fowler. After getting Jason Castro to fly out, a passed ball moved the runner into scoring position. The game was speeding up on him. In past times, that is where he would fall apart.
McClendon had Wilhelmsen warming up in the bullpen and ready, but stuck with Maurer.
“It’s tough,” McClendon said. “You’ve got a lot of things weighing on you. It’s not easy as a manager to make that decision whether or not you pull him. What does that do for his ego, his belief in what he can accomplish. But you’re also weighing what’s good for the team, your responsibility to the team to try and win the game. Believe me it was not easy. It was a gut-wrenching inning.”
The 23-year-old right-hander rewarded McClendon by striking out Matt Dominguez and getting Alex Presley, who had homered and doubled off him earlier, to fly out to end the threat.
It earned the respect of his manager.
“He went at it when he didn’t have much left and he fought through that fifth inning,” McClendon said. “That’s a real tough position to be in. Short bullpen where a guy as one of your starters has an opportunity to win. You want to believe in him, you want to give him an opportunity. He came through.”
McClendon’s faith in him gave Maurer some confidence.
“It felt good that he left me in there and let me get out of it,” he said.
What did Maurer do to navigate his way out of trouble?
“I definitely just stuck with Buck,” Maurer said. “Whatever he was going with, I was throwing. I have confidence in him. He’s done this a long time.”
Buck had a running dialogue with Maurer throughout the game, trying to make things also down for him and keep his emotions in check.
“In my opinion, it was step forward,” Buck said. “As soon as guys got to second and third and a couple things didn’t go his way, you started seeing it speed up. But he was to kind of put it back together and fight through it. I think it’s some growth and maturity on his part.”