Seattle Mariners

Beckham delivers with late pinch-hit homer, Mariners top Cardinals in series opener

Seattle Mariners’ Tim Beckham (1) celebrates with J.P. Crawford, right, after Beckham hit a go-ahead solo home run during the eighth inning of a baseball game against the St. Louis Cardinals, Tuesday, July 2, 2019, in Seattle.
Seattle Mariners’ Tim Beckham (1) celebrates with J.P. Crawford, right, after Beckham hit a go-ahead solo home run during the eighth inning of a baseball game against the St. Louis Cardinals, Tuesday, July 2, 2019, in Seattle. AP

When the Seattle Mariners returned home from a losing road trip Tuesday, manager Scott Servais noted the four-game losing streak wasn’t exactly what it seemed. Two of those games were extra-innings losses to an Astros team that is all but guaranteed to make the playoffs, and another was a narrow loss to the Brewers in the final game of a series the Mariners won.

Sure the club won just two games on the week-long road trip, but the pitching was mostly solid, the defense clean and the baseball competitive. That’s what Servais calls momentum, and he didn’t want the Mariners to lose sight of that progression with the All-Star break just one week away.

His players seemed to share that sentiment in their homestand opener, grinding out a 5-4 win over the visiting Cardinals at T-Mobile Park. After the Mariners lost their early lead in the seventh, Tim Beckham delivered in the eighth, sending a no-doubt solo homer to left to give Seattle a late advantage and snap the four-game slide.

“Tim got off to such a great start early in the season with the bat, then he cooled off like a lot of our guys did,” Servais said. “His work, what he’s been doing the last 10 days or so is trying to get it back going a little bit. I thought he swung the bat pretty well over in Houston, in that series. So, tonight, give him a shot leading off the inning.

“He had a great at-bat. He had a little history (with Gallegos). Really good at-bat. He was right on the fastballs and the breaking balls. Huge hit in the ballgame. We needed one of those. We had a few big hits against us on the road trip, so it was nice to flip it, and guys came through at the end.”

Beckham led off the inning, pinch hitting for left fielder Mac Williamson, who struck out in each of his three at-bats, worked a seven-pitch count, and finally connected on a fastball Giovanny Gallegos left over the plate. Beckham, who has played sporadically since the Mariners called up shortstop J.P. Crawford, knew it was gone, flipped his bat, and pointed towards a cheering Mariners dugout as he rounded the bases. It was the third pinch-hit home run of his career, and his 13th long ball of the season.

“When I’m in there, what I can control is seeing pitches and swinging at good pitches, and my preparation,” Beckham said. “Just keep preparing like you’re in there every day. The game works in mysterious ways. I was happy to get a big hit for the team tonight, and happy to get the win.”

Roenis Elias closed out the ninth, and collected his 11th save of the season despite allowing some traffic. He struck out Yadier Molina, but promptly allowed a one-out double to Dexter Fowler before regrouping to strike out Harrison Bader. And, he got Kolten Wong to ground out to short to end the threat and ignite the crowd of 20,173.

Earlier, opener Matt Carasiti’s streak of scoreless innings this season ended at three, when he gave up a solo homer to Jose Martinez in the first that landed in the St. Louis bullpen in left. Carasiti had pitched two scoreless innings as Seattle’s opener, and another in relief, before finally allowing that first run. But, the Mariners wasted little timing getting Carisiti off the hook for the loss, posting a pair of runs in the second.

Rookie Austin Nola knocked his first double of the season to right, and hustled around to score on a Dee Gordon single to shallow right two batters later, tying the game. Mallex Smith then beat out a soft chopper that bounced over Cardinals starter Jack Flaherty’s head for an infield single. Flaherty then walked Crawford with the bases loaded, and Domingo Santana behind him to force in Gordon, giving the Marines a 2-1 lead.

There was opportunity for more, but the Mariners couldn’t convert several base runners into runs in the first three innings, stranding seven. Flaherty forced Daniel Vogelbach, Seattle’s All-Star selection, into an infield groundout to end the bases-loaded threat in the second, and twice left a pair of runners aboard in the first and third. His pitch count climbed to 91 by the end of the fourth, but he at one point struck out four Mariners batters in five plate appearances to keep the score in check.

Omar Narvaez’s two-run moonshot to right center in the fifth that also scored Vogelbach provided a bit more room for Seattle, making it 4-1, but Flaherty struck out two more batters before he was pulled after 4 2/3. He tallied seven strikeouts, but allowed the four earned runs on seven hits, and walked four on 103 pitches.

“Omar picks his spots, he really does,” Servais said. “He’s got a good idea of what teams are doing. You’ll see him go to left field often, when he feels they’re going to pitch him away once in a while. He feels he might get a pitch he can drive. He’s looking for it, and looking to turn on it and get it in the air. Omar does a good job getting the ball in the air. It’s been a really good season offensively for him.”

Following Carasiti, Wade LeBlanc continued to put up impressive numbers behind an opener, working 4 2/3 innings while allowing just one run on Martinez’s second homer of the game in the sixth, to make it 4-2. Prior to that, LeBlanc didn’t allow a Cardinals runner to reach scoring position for four innings. He was aided several times by impressive glove work by third baseman Kyle Seager, and Crawford at short. LeBlanc allowed four hits, walked two and struck out one on 90 pitches, and exited after allowing a two-out walk and then a double to former Mariners prospect Tyler O’Neill in the sixth.

Anthony Bass finished off the inning, forcing Molina to line out to Crawford at short, but served up the tying runs the following frame. He recorded the first two outs of the seventh with ease, but then allowed a double to Wong, and Yairo Munoz immediately followed by launching his first homer of the season to left, tying the game again.

But, St. Louis’ offensive production halted there. Austin Adams, who had a monstrous June for the Mariners, fanning 22 in 13 innings, continued his strikeout parade, sitting down all four batters he faced in the seventh and eighth on just 17 pitches. Adams collected the win.

“It’s fun just going out and pitching against the best in the world,” Adams said.

“Austin’s been great,” Servais said. “Really throwing the ball well. When he gets ahead in the count, and we can go to that slider, and the command of it he’s got, he runs through really good hitters and makes them look silly at times. He just gets them so sped up with the velocity and the late break on that pitch. It’s an outlier. It is a different kind of slider. You don’t see many of those in this league.”

Lauren Smith covers the Seattle Mariners for The News Tribune. She previously covered high school sports at TNT and The Olympian, beginning in 2015. She is a graduate of the University of Washington and Emerald Ridge High School.