ST. PETERSBURG — It was an uncharacteristic defensive performance by one of the best defensive teams in the majors, but the Mariners were happy to exploit those shortcomings in a seven-run fourth inning that led to an 8-4 victory over the Rays on Tuesday.
Seattle opened its nine-game, three-city road trip with a bang at Tropicana Field, a sequence that happened in little more than the blink of an eye. And it led to a victory in the Mariners’ first meeting with the defending champion AL East this season after going 6-1 against them last year. Seattle is now riding a season-high four-game winning streak following its impressive 7-2 home run.
A breakdown of that fateful room:
With one out and runners on first and second, the Mariners escaped a double play late in the inning when Wander Franco threw a low pitch to Brandon Lowe, who caught the ball with his bare right hand but was unable to maintain secure possession, ruled a replay review. . So Abraham Toro reached, Eugenio Suarez, who originally went well past second base but pulled his hand back into the bag, stayed on second and Jesse Winker, who singled, advanced to third.
In the next at-bat, Tom Murphy hit another possible force on a dribble to Rays first baseman Ji-Man Choi. However, Choi’s awkward angle on his throw to the plate caused the ball to bounce right over catcher Mike Zunino’s shoulder, and in the confusion, Winker scored from third and Suarez from second.
After Murphy, Julio Rodriguez hit a 108.6 mph double into right-center that easily scored Toro from third and moved Murphy to third.
Then, Dylan Moore was barely hit on his front (left) foot by a pitch on a cutter running to load the bases.
Adam Frazier followed immediately with a bases-clearing straight double to right, just over Choi’s extended reach.
Co-AL Player of the Week newcomer Ty France scored Frazier with an RBI single directly between third baseman and shortstop. He also had an RBI in the sixth to bring his season total to an MLB-high 21.
Winker and Suarez then struck out to stop the rally. But the damage was done.
“When you get an extra out or two, you have to take advantage of it,” said Mariners manager Scott Servais, who returned for the first time since testing positive for COVID last Wednesday. “In the past, we haven’t been able to do that.”
Because of the two errors on the forced downs, all seven runs against Rays pitcher Josh Fleming in that inning were unearned. It was the first time a team had been credited for so many unearned runs in a single inning since the Mets-Phillies game on Aug. 16, 2018, and the first time the Mariners had been credited for so many in a single frame since their 15th win. -two. over the Blue Jays on May 16, 2002, according to the Mariners.
“That’s a credit to our guys,” Servais said. “Our guys are really focused on what we’re doing. We have a long season ahead of us, but we are excited about the start we are having. There is a good vibe in our team right now.”
It was an unusually poor defensive performance from a Rays team that ranks tied for third in the majors with more than five outs above average, according to Statcast. However, it was just as critical for the Mariners to exploit those mistakes. There are many characteristic traits of good teams, but one that stands out more than others is the ability to consistently capitalize on opponents’ mistakes.
“I think the most dangerous teams you play with are the ones that put the ball in play and have good approaches,” Murphy said. “And I know from a catcher’s standpoint, those are the teams I hate playing against. So, hopefully we’ll be one of those teams.”
Seattle extended its best run differential in the American League to plus-22. Tuesday’s early cushion allowed Florida native Logan Gilbert to overcome some early command issues (he walked three after giving just one total in his first three starts) and cross in front of a huge crowd of friends and family.
With just two hits allowed in 5 2/3 scoreless innings, Gilbert lowered his ERA to an MLB-best 0.40 with one earned run in 22 1/3 innings.
“You’re not always going to have your best stuff, and I feel good where I’m at,” Gilbert said. “But at the same time, I know I haven’t put it all together yet. That’s why the emphasis on competing and finding a way is so important.”