OAKLAND, Calif. — The late-inning stress and anxiety of yet another low-scoring game loomed for the Mariners. In the unusual and uncomfortable heat that hit the Bay Area on the summer solstice, turning the basically empty concrete crypt, which has returned to be being called the Oakland Coliseum, into a stifling sauna, an uneasy, edgy feeling of failures with runners in scoring positions and stranded base runners ruining Marco Gonzales outstanding prevailed.
Would the pattern endured in the Mariners’ previous 12 losses — scoring three runs or fewer in all of them — prevail again?
Not this time.
With a nod to successful Seattle teams of the past, this team that’s still trying to find its path to meeting expectations, followed on an old and often-unused mantra: “Two outs, so what?”
The Mariners scored five runs with two outs in the top of the seventh inning, highlighted by back-to-back-to-back homers from Julio Rodriguez, Jesse Winker and Eugenio Suarez to roll to an easy 8-2 victory over the Oakland A’s.
Dating back to last season, the Mariners are 9-1 at the coliseum, including winning their last seven in a row.
That seventh inning started off with what seemed like failure. Taylor Trammell and Cal Raleigh worked back-to-back walks off lefty Kirby Snead to start the inning. But after not executing a sac bunt, J.P. Crawford hit a comebacker to Snead that turned into a 1-6-3 double play.
Would it be another wasted opportunity lamented when/if they lost the lead later in the game?
That was the homestand, this was a new road trip.
Right-hander Austin Pruitt brought in to replace Snead and face Ty France, the Mariners best clutch hitter. France did what he’s always done with runners on base — not too much. He bounced a single up the middle to score Trammell from third.
Then the explosion of power game.
Rodriguez ambushed a first-pitch curveball that hung in the middle of the plate, sending a missile into the left field stands for a two-run homer. Winker followed with one of his hardest hit balls of the season, sending a towering blast to deep right-center. Suarez followed with a line drive over the wall in center to cap the inning.
The last time the Mariners hit back-to-back-to-back homers was Aug. 27, 2004 (Miguel Olivo, José López, Hiram Bocachica).
For the first six innings, Gonzales offered an old-school clinic in pitching strategy and execution. He worked ahead in counts, used his changeup to keep hitters off balance and put them into uncomfortable swings on his fastballs. He didn’t allow a run during that stretch, working around base runners and generating 11 ground balls.
But after the lengthy top of the seventh that resulted in the extra run support, Gonzales ran into some trouble in the bottom of the inning. He gave up a one-out single and then with two outs misplaced a 1-1 changeup to No. 8 hitter Nick Allen, who was recalled from Class AAA Las Vegas, before the game. Allen put it over the wall in left field for his first big leaguer homer. With the lead down to 6-2, Gonzales allowed a double to Christian Pache that got Andres Munoz up and throwing ion the Mariners bullpen. But Gonzales was able to finish the seventh when J.P. Crawford snagged the line drive off the bat of Chad Pinder.
Gonzales’ final line: seven innings pitched, two runs allowed on seven hits with a walk and two strikeouts.