MILWAUKEE — The obvious justification for the Mariners’ most recent success, which included a three-game winning streak and a series won would be the level of competition played.
Taking three of four from the Baltimore Orioles, the worst team in baseball, is expected even for a team that has played only marginally better this season.
But Seattle showed that it’s more than capable of playing well against better competition Tuesday night at Miller Park.
Behind an offense that’s picked up its production in the month of June and a solid showing from the beleaguered bullpen, the Mariners rolled to relatively easy 8-3 win over the Milwaukee Brewers, a team that is quite the opposite of the Orioles in every way in terms of record, talent and success.
Seattle banged out 12 hits and worked eight walks for constant traffic on the bases and dragging the game to 3½ hours. It’s the sort of thing that the offense did early in the season and then got away from in a miserable May where the team went 7-21.
“Our swing decisions have been outstanding the last two or three weeks and it’s paid off,” manager Scott Servais said. “We had a good game plan going in even though we hadn’t seen him a lot. We had a good advanced report and a good plan, but it does come down to executing. And we did it tonight.”
Over the last 20 games, the Mariners are averaging 6.6 runs, 9.5 hits and 4.6 walks while posting a .265 batting average and on-base plus slugging percentage of over .820.
Four scoreless innings from the Mariners bullpen don’t happen often. And it was in doubt in the sixth inning after Cory Gearrin replaced starter Marco Gonzales with Seattle leading 7-3.
After recording one out, Gearrin issued a walk, and an error by shortstop J.P. Crawford put another runner on base. With two outs and reigning National League MVP Christian Yelich coming to the plate, Servais went to the excitable Austin Adams and his many sliders.
Adams, chomping on gum in a manner that even Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll would think is violent, ended the drama. He struck out Yelich looking on a nasty 3-2 slider.
“I’m trying to get an out,” Adams said. “That’s if not the best hitter in the world, then the second? That guy is incredible. I made a good pitch at the right time. It was just one of those good days.”
He returned to pitch the seventh, working a 1-2-3 inning that included swinging strikeouts of Ryan Braun and Mike Moustakas.
“He’s in a good spot with us,” he said. “We are using him in different roles — kind of higher leverage with the right matchups. Tonight we fired him out there — big out in the sixth, three more outs in the seventh — it was the key to the game.”
Gonzales gave the Mariners a usable if not completely efficient outing against a potent Brewers lineup. He worked five innings, giving up three runs (two earned) on eight hits with no walks and four strikeouts.
“We put the foot on the gas pedal to try to get ahead and use the fastball to both sides of the plate,” Gonzales said. “Kudos to Omar (Narvaez), the only pitch I shook him on was a homer. That’s on me. And he let me know.”
Milwaukee grabbed an early 1-0 lead against Gonzales. With two outs in the first inning and Braun on second, third baseman Kyle Seager misplayed a routine ground ball off the bat of Moustakas to allow unearned run to score.
The Mariners broke open the game in the third and fourth inning against Brewers starter Kyle Davies. The speed duo at the top of the lineup got the first run. Mallex Smith looped a ball into right field that turned into a hustling double. Crawford followed with a line drive to the right-center gap that went for a RBI triple.
Facing his old team, Domingo Santana scored Crawford with a double off the glove shortstop Orlando Arcia that made it 2-1. And then Daniel Vogelbach punctuated the inning with a towering two-run homer, his 19th, to the second deck in right field.
Seattle tacked on two runs in the fourth aided by some sloppy defense from the Brewers. Back-to-back errors on Dee Gordon’s ground ball to third and Gonzales’ sacrifice bunt allowed a run to score. Crawford plated another run on a ground ball to second that made it 6-1.
After the prolonged first inning, Gonzales worked the next three innings scoreless, allowing just two base runners. But he struggled in the fifth, giving up a solo homer to Orlando Arcia and a RBI single to Jesus Aguilar before getting former teammate Ben Gamel to pop out to end the inning.