baseball

Mariners avoid getting swept with 9-5 comeback win over A’s

OAKLAND, Calif. — With his star center fielder in the training room, forced out of the game with an aching lower back, and his starting pitcher, who is one of the best in baseball at throwing strikes, unable to find the strike zone while allowing the Oakland A’s to turn Seattle’s three-run lead into a two-run deficit in an interminable third inning, a frustrated Scott Servais glanced skyward with his arms crossed for a moment.

Was he counting the number of fans in the largely empty concrete mausoleum?

Was he asking the baseball gods what he did to deserve such a curse?

Perhaps he was checking to see if the cloudless blue sky in the Bay Area was indeed falling on him and his scuffling team.

Would this awful road trip turn abysmal with yet another loss, which meant getting swept by the remnants of the Oakland A’s? The panic and pressure of possibly blowing their expected spot in the postseason would only increase.

Nope, Jarred Kelenic wouldn’t let that happen.

Jarred Kelenic?

Yes, the one-time prospect and forgotten foundational piece of this team’s future success, offered a tantalizing glimpse of what he can still be as a player and what he could mean to this team in the final weeks of the season in Seattle’s much-needed 9-5 victory over the Oakland A’s.

Recalled from Tacoma on Wednesday and starting left field on Thursday, Kelenic erased the A’s 5-3 lead by himself. Kelenic crushed a solo homer off Oakland starter Adrian Martinez in the fourth inning and laced an RBI double in the sixth game-changing inning to tie the game at 5-5.

“I’m really happy for Jarred Kelenic,” Servais said. “It’s not been easy for him in his time here. But we talked when he got in yesterday, it’s just about do whatever you can to help us win the game. And he did more than that today.”

With two outs, Adam Frazier gave the Mariners a lead for good. He punched a low and away slider from lefty Kirby Snead ground ball down the third base line for a double that scored two runs.

“I was just trying to fight,” Frazier said. “It’s been a grind the last week or two. After swinging at a 2-0 slider, I was just going to stay on top of the ball and hit it the other way. The ball was off the plate, but I’m glad I got to it.”

Seattle continued to add on runs late with a sac fly from Ty France and another RBI single from Frazier.

In their two wins on the road trip, they’ve scored nine runs in each game, which is an improvement over the four total runs — one each — in their four losses.

“We put up nine runs and we needed it,” Servais said. “In the third inning when I made the pitching change, I said, ‘There’s a lot of game left, guys. It’s going to be a crazy finish today.”

Perhaps nothing more “crazy” than Kelenic leading the comeback. It’s not that the 23-year-old isn’t talented enough to do it, but his struggles this season have been a source of great frustration and disappointment for fans and the organization. But it’s nothing compared to what Kelenic has felt in a season where he expected so much and achieved so little. His reaction to his success was measured.

“I’m just trying to focus on just doing my job and that’s it,” Kelenic said. “eliminate all the distractions and just kind of go to work, just like everybody here. I think that’s when we are all at our best. So we’re just gonna keep it rolling, keep it going to Kansas City with a W.

The reports on Kelenic’s improved approach at the plate and shorter swing were verified for Servais. He noticed it in Kelenic’s first plate appearance in Seattle’s three-run first inning, mentioning it to assistant coach Carson Vitale. Kelenic calmly took a five-pitch walk with runners on second and third off Martinez. He wouldn’t chase anything out of the zone.

“He was very calm,” Servais said. “After he took the second pitch, I said to Carson, ‘he looks much calmer.’ He was in control.”

It helped that Kelenic had faced Martinez in two games with Tacoma. He had homer and a triple off the right-hander.

Given a 3-0 lead before he fired a pitch, George Kirby suffered through his worst outing of his MLB career. Known for his consistent command and pinpoint accuracy, the rookie right-hander suffered through a rare outing where the baseball wouldn’t do what he wanted it to do.

It was apparent from the first inning when a two-seam fastball left up in the zone to Tony Kemp was turned into a leadoff double. That was followed by a walk to Vimael Machin that had Kirby shaking his head in disgust.

After a brief timeout for Julio Rodriguez to exit the game due to a recurrence of lower back discomfort, Kirby retired the next three batters to keep the inning scoreless.

The second inning had a similar pattern. Kirby allowed back-to-back one-out singles but managed to get out of the inning unscathed.

But Kirby couldn’t do the same in a third inning he never finished. He allowed a double to Machin, a single to Sean Murphy and walked Seth Brown to load the bases in the first three batters he faced. It was the first time Kirby walked more than one batter in a game this season.

The bases didn’t stay loaded for long. Veteran catcher Stephen Vogt, who resides in the Olympia area and announced he would retire after the season, channeled his inner youth for a moment, lacing a triple into the right field corner to tie the game.

Kirby picked up his first out of the inning on a ground out from Jordan Diaz, but a walk to Conner Capel and a double from Shea Langeliers gave Oakland a 4-3 lead and end Kirby’s outing.

His replacement, Matt Brash, entered the game with runners on first and third. He walked Nick Allen to load the bases and gave up a single to Kemp that made it 5-3. When Brash finally ended the inning with a strikeout of Machin and a fielders choice on Murphy, the A’s had 11 batters come to the plate.

Kirby’s final line: 2 2/3 innings, five earned runs allowed on seven hits with three walks and one strikeout.

This story will be updated.

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