Focused on wild card, Mariners face skidding Angels

Field Level Media

September 25, 2021 at 11:41 am.

When right-hander Paul Sewald signed a free-agent contract this offseason with the Mariners, it registered little more than a couple of lines in the transactions list — even in Seattle.

Sewald, after all, had gone 1-14 with a 5.50 ERA and three saves in 125 appearances over parts of four seasons with the New York Mets. In the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, he pitched just six innings in the majors, allowing nine runs on 12 hits.

The 31-year-old started the season at Triple-A Tacoma. He made two scoreless appearances for the Rainiers before being recalled by Seattle.

Mariners manager Scott Servais repeatedly has called Sewald the team’s MVP, and he showed why Friday night.

Sewald got out of a bases-loaded jam in the ninth inning as the Mariners posted a 6-5 win over the Los Angeles Angels in the opener of a three-game series. The teams will meet again Saturday night in Anaheim, Calif.

“Wow, talk about a pull-your-hair out game,” Servais said. “That was crazy.”

The victory was the sixth in a row for the Mariners (85-69), who stand two games back of the New York Yankees for the second wild card in the American League with eight games to play.

The Angels (73-81) have lost seven of their past eight games.

On Friday, leading by a run, the Mariners decided to intentionally walk Shohei Ohtani with the bases empty and one out in the bottom of the ninth. The move nearly backfired as Phil Gosselin hit a double to right, putting runners at second and third.

Another intentional walk loaded the bases, but Sewald struck out Jack Mayfield and then induced Jose Rojas to ground out to first base to end the game for his 11th save of the season.

Sewald spiked the ball and his glove in the dirt adjacent to first base in celebration.

“It’s not conventional,” Servais said of walking Ohtani in that situation, “but we’re the Mariners of 2021 — we’re really not conventional anyway. So why not?”

Ohtani walked four times in five plate appearances. It was the 11th time he’s walked over the past three games, tying a major-league record set by Bryce Harper in 2016.

Ohtani also is the first player to draw three walks in three consecutive games since Barry Bonds in 2003. The record is four straight games, shared by Babe Ruth (1930) and Mickey Mantle (1957).

“The team’s in a playoff hunt and they’re not going to permit (Ohtani) to beat them,” Angels manager Joe Maddon said. “We were in good position in the ninth with the bases loaded and one out. We couldn’t get the run in. This whole homestand we have been coming up short against teams that are in playoff contention.”

Ty France homered and drove in two runs for the Mariners.

“No one thought we’d be in the spot we’re in right now,” France said. “… We’re pretty even-keel. We obviously know where we’re at and what it’s going to take, but if we just keep playing the way we have been all year we’re going to be all right.”

Mariners left-hander Tyler Anderson (7-9, 4.01 ERA) is scheduled to start Saturday against Angels right-hander Jaime Barria (2-4, 4.77).

Saturday’s game will mark the first time either pitcher has faced the opponent this season.

Anderson is 0-1 with an 8.10 ERA in two career starts against the Angels.

Barria is 2-4 with a 5.49 ERA in eight career appearances against Seattle, including six starts.