MILWAUKEE – They did it in the first inning to set the tone.
They did it again in the ninth inning when an extra insurance run was oh so important for a closer that was being asked to get six outs.
And this wasn’t a random occurrence.
It’s been happening frequently enough to think this could be something to build upon.
The duo of leadoff hitter Mallex Smith and No. 2 hitter J.P. Crawford has displayed the type of speed, athleticism and potential at the plate and on the bases to provide a few glimmers of hope amidst the many defeats in an already lost season.
The two youngsters, key to the the Mariners’ “step-back” plans moving forward, provided Seattle’s first run and the final run in a 4-2 victory over the Brewers.
With Wednesday night’s victory the Mariners secured a series victory over Milwaukee. It’s their second series win in a row. They’ve now won six of their last seven games.
“When you are young and athletic and you have a lot to prove, it’s every night showing up with a lot of energy,” manager Scott Servais said. “Their athleticism plays out on the field. You certainly see it defensively, you see it running the bases. It’s big. It helps you win a lot of close games against good teams. Milwaukee’s got a good club and we’ve played really well the last couple of nights.”
Clinging to a 3-2 lead going into the ninth inning and knowing that Roenis Elias, who pitched a 1-2-3 eighth inning, was tasked with another three outs of work, an extra run would’ve been a pleasant luxury.
After right-hander Jeremy Jeffress struck out Dee Gordon and Dylan Moore, that insurance run seemed unlikely.
“Two outs and nobody on, and I was thinking, ‘man, we really need a run, somebody hit a homer,’” Servais joked.
He got his run in a different way.
Smith stepped to the plate and smacked a single to left field. With an RBI double and run-scoring triple earlier in the game, Crawford notched his third extra-base hit of the game, dumping a double into left. Smith, who was running on the pitch, scored from first to give Seattle a two-run lead.
It was Crawford’s third straight multi-hit game and he’s reached base safely in 17 of his last 18 games. In 29 games since being called up in early May, he’s batting .318 with a .387 on-base percentage, a .509 slugging percentage, 11 doubles, two triples, two homers and 21 RBI. He’s also solidified a leaky Mariners’ infield defense at shortstop, including a brilliant diving stop and throw to get Orlando Arcia.
“J.P. had an unbelievable game tonight,” Servais said. “We are really starting to see him emerge. He’s a big part of our team certainly since we’ve started playing better over the last few weeks.”
Elias closed out the game with a 1-2-3 ninth for his 10th save of the season.
“The game called for it,” Servais said of the six-out save. “He certainly has the ability to do that. It’s the nice thing about having him down there (in the bullpen). We were going through the meat of the lineup in the eighth and a couple of left-handed hitters and we thought, ‘Let’s put Ellie in there and see if he can run it.’ And he did.”
The Mariners gave their latest opener, Matt Carasiti, two early runs before he took the mound at Miller Park.
Smith roped a leadoff triple to the gap in right-center off Brewers starter Adrian Houser to start the game.
Crawford followed with an RBI double almost in the same spot for a 1-0 lead. Crawford later came around to score on Omar Narvaez’s single.
A little cushion was ideal for Carasiti, who was signed to a minor-league deal on June 7 after being released by the Chicago Cubs.
After making one prior appearance since having his minor-league contract selected from Class AAA Tacoma, he got the opportunity to do what hadn’t worked out so well for previous openers Cory Gearrin, Gerson Bautista and Tayler Scott.
For just the third time in eight tries, the Mariners got a scoreless inning out of their opener
In his 21st major-league appearance and first MLB start, Carasiti walked the first batter he faced, which is never a good thing.
But he came back to get Christian Yelich to ground into a fielder’s choice for an out, Mike Moustakas to fly out to the warning track in left and another fielder’s choice for an out from Ryan Braun to end the inning.
Carasiti’s scoreless frame lowered the ERA of Mariners’ openers from 19.50 to 16.71. That’s some improvement.
The Mariners tacked on another run in the second to provide a little more cushion for Wade LeBlanc, who got the win, to enter as the bulk or Costco pitcher.
After a leadoff walk and a steal of second base by Dee Gordon, Crawford smacked a triple into deep right-center that made it 3-0.
LeBlanc cruised through his first four innings of “relief” work.
But the Brewers finally figured him out in the fifth inning. Moustakas golfed a low changeup that wasn’t a strike over the wall for a leadoff solo homer.
With one out, ex-Mariner Ben Gamel lifted a soft liner toward the left-field foul line.
Mariners left fielder Mac Williamson made a diving attempt for it, but came up just short. The ball bounced past him all the way to the wall.
Gamel was able to race around the bases for an inside-the-park home run that cut the lead to 3-2.
“It was right into his swing,” LeBlanc said of Moustakas’ homer. “It happens, man. It happens. Fortunately, it was less runs than they gave up.”
Seattle got another solid relief appearance from Austin Adams, who worked a scoreless seventh, striking out pinch hitter Jesus Aguilar and later Yelich to end the inning. Seattle has held the reigning National League MVP hitless in the first two games of the series.