PITTSBURGH – The Seattle Mariners are on their way to finishing at the bottom of the AL West, but they plan to do more than merely play out the string over the final two weeks.
“We’ve got a lot of young guys who are trying to make an impression,” M’s manager Scott Servais said.
Among them is rookie Shed Long, who had three hits and scored the go-ahead run on an unusual inning-ending double play in the 11th as the Mariners beat the Pittsburgh Pirates 6-5 on Thursday.
The Mariners swept the three-game series between last-place teams and sent the Pirates to their sixth straight loss.
Long reached base on first baseman Jose Osuna’s error to start the 11th and Omar Narvaez singled with one out to put runners on the corners. Austin Nola then hit a chopper to second baseman Kevin Kramer. Rather than flip the ball to second, Kramer ran at Narvaez, who alertly stopped and began to retreat.
Kramer then threw to first, and Narvaez was eventually tagged in a 4-3-6-2 rundown as Long scored.
Long also drove in two runs and is hitting .288 with four home runs in 33 games. He is primarily a second baseman but started in left field in the series finale.
“Every game for me is important,” Long said. “These last few games, I’m definitely trying to put in the back on their heads to keep me in mind for next season where I can be in consideration for a job in spring training. I’m putting in the work and trying to do the best I can when I get the chance to play.”
Pirates manager Clint Hurdle did not fault Kramer for attempting a double play.
“I think the play is to immediately go to second base to start to initiate a double play or try to tag the runner and get the ball to first,” Hurdle said. “I don’t think he had a play at the plate. Ball’s hit too soft.”
Pittsburgh’s Jake Elmore had three hits and two RBIs.
Seattle’s Brandon Brennan (3-6) pitched one scoreless inning and rookie Erik Swanson worked around a walk in the 11th for his first career save. Clay Holmes (1-2) took the loss, though the winning run was unearned.
Mariners left-hander Yusei Kikuchi lasted four innings in his next-to-last start of the season, allowing four runs and eight hits with one strikeout and one walk.
“His stuff wasn’t as sharp or as good as we’ve seen it in the past,” Servais said.
Signed from Japan to a three-year, $43-million contract in the offseason, Kikuchi has made 31 starts and pitched 155 2/3 innings. He is 6-10 with 5.55 ERA after never starting more than 26 games in any of his eight seasons in Nippon Professional Baseball.
“It has definitely been an adjustment pitching every five days here,” Kikuchi, who normally started once a week in Japan, said through a translator. “It’s been a learning experience and I want to finish strong in my last start.”
Pirates starter Joe Musgrove gave up four runs – two earned – and five hits in five innings. He struck out six and walked two.
Seattle tied the score at 5-all in the seventh on Nola’s two-out single after Elmore put Pittsburgh ahead 5-4 in the fifth with an RBI single.
Both teams had four-run second innings.
Long’s two-run single capped the Mariners’ half in which Braden Bishop hit an RBI single and another run scored on shortstop Cole Tucker’s throwing error. The Pirates got-run scoring doubles from Elias Diaz, Elmore and Musgrove before Kevin Newman capped the inning with an RBI single.
Elmore’s hit snapped a 0-for-19 skid. The veteran utility player had gone home to Phoenix after Triple-A Indianapolis’ season ended two weeks ago but was called up Tuesday because injuries had depleted the Pirates’ depth.
“I’d say, probably, the toughest thing, aside from physical, is turning it back on mentally because once you shut it down for the offseason, you’re probably having a couple too many beers just for a couple weeks and not working out,” Elmore said.
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