Haniger’s grand slam propels Mariners past slumping Rays
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- The last time Mitch Haniger was on a major-league baseball field, he took a pitch to the mouth and missed three weeks recovering.
On Saturday night, there was a much better contact at the plate. His first career grand slam helped Seattle to an early lead and the Mariners held on for their fourth straight win, a 7-6 decision over the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field.
“It’s great to have Hani back -- the blow he took to the mouth, it’s hard to come back,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said. “He was really on top of everything tonight and had a huge home run for us.”
The Mariners (63-61) led 7-2 in the sixth inning and held off a rally from a Rays team that had scored nine runs in their previous 10 home games. Tampa Bay (60-65) has dropped four in a row and 12 of its last 15 as the Rays fade from the American League wild-card chase.
Logan Morrison had a pinch-hit home run in the bottom of the ninth inning -- his 29th homer of the season -- to get Tampa Bay within a run.
Edwin Diaz regrouped to strike out Kevin Kiermaier, and pinch-hitter Corey Dickerson hit a weak ground ball as he posted his 27th save.
Seattle’s Ariel Miranda (8-6) gave up three runs and five hits in five innings, but the Mariners’ bats were strong enough to get him the win.
Tampa Bay’s Jake Odorizzi (6-7) didn’t make it through the fourth inning, struggling enough to spoil the Rays’ awakening at the plate as the six runs marked their most in a home game since June 23.
“We didn’t quit until the last out,” Rays outfielder Steven Souza said. “Especially with the way we got down early and bounced back ... I think we just have to fight, ultimately. Tomorrow comes and we have to keep fighting.”
Down 7-2 in the sixth inning, the Rays got a leadoff home run from Souza (his 26th of the season) to chase Miranda.
Reliever Emilio Pagan gave up a single to Wilson Ramos, then a two-run homer to Lucas Duda -- his 22nd of the season -- to get the Rays within 7-5.
“We had to work our way through the sixth inning,” Servais said. “We got the ball to (reliever Nick) Vincent, and I thought Diaz threw the ball very well tonight.”
For the second night in a row, the Mariners jumped out early.
Seattle had the bases loaded with one out in the second and came away empty, but Odorizzi wasn’t as fortunate in the third. Singles by Robinson Cano and Kyle Seager sandwiched around a walk to Nelson Cruz loaded the bases before Haniger followed with his first career grand slam -- and eighth homer of the year -- for a 4-1 lead.
“One of those days where I didn’t have it,” Odorizzi said. “My arm felt dead. I feel fine. I had nothing coming out of today, no life on the fastball. Just one of those days where nothing was there, and there’s really no more to say than that.”
The Rays, who had taken an early lead on Ramos’ RBI single in the first inning, got another run on Peter Bourjos’ RBI double in the third to cut the lead to 4-2, but the Mariners weren’t done.
Jean Segura doubled to lead off the fourth and scored on Yonder Alonso’s RBI single to make it 5-2.
Cruz, who had a home run and two doubles in Friday’s win, hit a shot to right field that was initially ruled a double, but replays showed it cleared the fence and bounced off a railing back into play. That made it his 31st home run and gave the Mariners a 7-2 lead.
Odorizzi lasted 3 2/3 innings, leaving after giving up seven runs and eight hits. He didn’t help his cause with five walks, raising his season ERA to 4.74.
NOTES: The Mariners activated OF Mitch Haniger off the disabled list, where he’d been for three weeks since taking a pitch to the mouth. OF Jarrod Dyson was placed on the disabled list with a strained right groin, and Seattle swapped relievers, recalling RHP Casey Lawrence and optioning RHP Sam Gaviglio to Triple-A Tacoma. ... The Rays on Saturday claimed OF Cesar Puello, who had been designated for assignment by the Angels. Puello, 26, hit .397 in 44 games with the Angels’ Triple-A affiliate in Salt Lake, with seven home runs, 34 RBIs and 13 steals. No corresponding move was announced by the Rays. ... The Mariners’ 12-game, 14-day road trip will cover 7,500 miles in the air, with stops in St. Petersburg, Atlanta, New York (Yankees) and Baltimore. ... Nelson Cruz’s two-run homer was his 70th on the road since the start of 2015, easily the most in the majors. Entering Saturday, the closest was Cleveland’s Edwin Encarnacion with 62.