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A day after getting shutout and looking quite ineffective, the Mariners’ bats came to life on Saturday in the sterile, shopping mall-like environs of Tropicana Field.
Dustin Ackley broke open a 3-2 game in the fifth inning, blasting a bases-loaded double off a 0-2 curveball off of Rays’ starter Alex Cobb to deep center that scored all three runners, leading Seattle to a 7-4 win over the Tampa Bay Rays.
“On 0-2, I was looking fastball,” he said. “I’m trying to look fastball on every pitch. And when I do that, I’m usually on time for that curveball. Those are the ones you can’t miss. Those are the ones they leave up that you have to hit.”
It’s a mistake that Cobb regretted.
“That’s a pitch that’s going to haunt for me a while,” he said. “I knew I needed to bear down really hard right there. I trued to bury a curveball, and left it right in his swing path. That’s exactly where he wants to hit the ball. That’s definitely a pitch that’s going to be replayed in my mind over and over.”
But it was Cole Gillespie, who snapped the 11-inning scoreless streak, crushing a solo homer over the center field wall off of Alex Cobb. It was Gillespie’s first homer of the season.
“That was one on of those where you don’t feel the contact,” he said. “It was one of my better swings I’ve had this year, if not the best.”
While there was still seven innings left to play, Gillespie’s homer was certainly a relief for an offense that can go achingly long periods without scoring.
“I think it was big for us,” Gillespie said. “To get on the board early and put some runs up … it was big.”
After giving up two runs in the second, starter Roenis Elias retired 17 of the next 19 hitters he faced.
But his quest for a second straight complete game came to an end in the eighth inning. He gave up one-out double to Desmond Jennings. After getting Sean Rodriguez to ground out, McClendon let Elias try and finish the eighth. But he couldn’t do it. Rays’ all-star third baseman Evan Longoria hammered a fastball up in the zone over the wall in left-center to cut the lead to 7-4.
“We probably left him in a little too long,” McClendon said. “But he gave us a nice outing.”
McClendon admitted that if the score had been closer, Elias wouldn’t have started the eighth inning.
Elias, never shy or afraid, just shrugged off the two runs in the eighth.
“It’s baseball,” he said through translator Fernando Alcala. “In the end, we still won the game.”
But after throwing his first career shutout against the Tigers in his previous outing, Elias was happy to come back with another solid outing to show it wasn’t a fluke.
“I’m very proud of it because worked really hard to be able to do what I’ve been doing this season,” he said. “I’m doing what I’m capable of doing. I’m working hard towards keeping that going.”
It was a test of sorts that he passed.
“I think that’s the biggest challenged for this young man now is just making sure he brings it from a mental standpoint every day, not just against the ‘elite’ teams,” McClendon said.
Danny Farquhar came on to get the final out of the eighth inning.
Amidst more than a few boos Fernando Rodney came onto pitch a 1-2-3 ninth inning to register his 17th save.
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