Mariners Take Two of Three in Toronto

Jul 23, 2016; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Seattle Mariners designated hitter Nelson Cruz (23) grounds out in the sixth inning to drive in a run against the Toronto Blue Jays at Rogers Centre. The Mariners won 14-5. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Sousa-USA TODAY Sports
Jul 23, 2016; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Seattle Mariners designated hitter Nelson Cruz (23) grounds out in the sixth inning to drive in a run against the Toronto Blue Jays at Rogers Centre. The Mariners won 14-5. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Sousa-USA TODAY Sports /

The Mariners started their eight-game road trip with a series win over the defending AL East Champions, and hope to take that momentum to Pittsburgh.

The Mariners got their passports together and went north of the border for a three-game weekend series against the tough Toronto Blue Jays.

They came away victors of the series thanks to some good pitching performances and an offensive outburst.

Game One:

The Canadian lefty James Paxton got the ball in his native country for the first game of the series and had one of the better outings of his young career to this point. The southpaw pitched seven innings and gave up just one run on three hits while striking out nine against one of the better lineups in the MLB even with Jose Bautista out with an injury. The lone run for Toronto came from ex-Mariner outfielder Michael Saunders, who hit a solo shot in the second inning.

The Mariners didn’t muster up too much offense off of Toronto’s starter, Marco Estrada, but Robinson Cano drove in Nori Aoki in the first with a fielder’s choice, and Seth Smith doubled in the fifth, which drove in Shawn O’Malley. Edwin Diaz dazzled once again in the eighth, throwing a 1,2,3 inning and striking out two Blue Jays, and despite allowing two base runners in the ninth, Steve Cishek earned his 23rd save of the year and the Mariners took the first game of the series 2-1.

Game One Notes:

Player of the Game: James Paxton. Man what an outing. That is the kind of electrifying performance he is capable of every time he takes the mound. He dominated a very good lineup and with it being in his home country I’m sure this was one of the more satisfying games of his career.

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It was nice to see Aoki get a few hits in the leadoff spot. Especially the triple to start the game and series off.

Edwin Diaz is great. have I mentioned that before? Good lord the kid is a stud.

Game Two:

The Mariners’ offense decided to give their best showing of the year thus far in a 14-run, 19-hit performance in which every starter recorded at least one hit. This coupled with a very solid outing from Hisashi Iwakuma, who gave up two runs in six innings to earn his 11th win of the year.

Jul 23, 2016; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Seattle Mariners starting pitcher Hisashi Iwakuma (18) delivers a pitch against the Toronto Blue Jays in the first inning at Rogers Centre. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Sousa-USA TODAY Sports /

Josh Thole got the scoring started with a sacrifice fly in the second to give Toronto a 1-0 lead. Unfortunately for the Blue Jays, that was the only lead they would have for the rest of the game.

Nelson Cruz hit a grand slam to center field in the third to make it 4-1. Nori Aoki had an RBI infield single in the fourth and Seth Smith drove in Chris Iannetta when he grounded into a double play to extend the lead to 6-1.

Aoki drove in another run with a single in the 6th and Smith followed with an RBI single of his own. Cruz grounded into a double play which scored Aoki and Seager hit a two-run blast to left-center and the lead was 11-1 after the top of the sixth.

Michael Saunders homered for the second consecutive game in the bottom of the sixth to take away the double-digit lead for Seattle, but Nelson Cruz hit an absolute laser of a three-run shot to make the Seattle lead 14-2.

Wade LeBlanc pitched the 7th, 8th, and 9th for Seattle and gave up a home run to Saunders to give him two for the game, and a two-run shot to another former Mariner, Justin Smoak, both coming in the eighth inning. The Mariners won 14-5 to win the series.

Game Two Notes:

Player of the Game: Too easy, it has to be Nelson Cruz. The guy hit two home runs and drove in seven runs. The three-run shot was hit so hard I thought it was going to kill the fans in left field.

Iwakuma has pitched really well of late. If the Mariners want to make a run at the playoffs, he needs to keep delivering these kinds of performances.

Shawn O’Malley getting three hits makes me happy. I love how versatile he is.

Three more hits from Aoki in the leadoff spot. That time in Tacoma seems to be paying off.

Iannetta got two hits to break a long hitless streak which was nice to see.

Ketel Marte was placed on the 15-day Disabled List on Saturday retroactive to July 20th. He’s been really sick with Mono.

Game Three:

Unfortunately on a day where Seattle’s greatest athlete, Ken Griffey Jr., went into Cooperstown, the Mariners were unable to draw any magic and the bats were exhausted from the previous outburst and they were shutout to close the series and lost 2-0.

Jul 24, 2016; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Blue Jays starting pitcher J.A. Happ (33) delivers a pitch in the first inning against the Seattle Mariners at Rogers Centre. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Sousa-USA TODAY Sports /

Former Mariner J.A. Happ threw six innings and gave up just one hit to Leonys Martin while striking out six Mariner hitters. His bullpen pitched three scoreless and hitless innings to secure his win as well.

Happ got support from slugger Edwin Encarnacion, who hit his 27th homer of the year off of Wade Miley in the fourth, and Josh Donaldson grounded into a double play in the sixth which scored Josh Thole from third base.

Miley pitched six innings and gave up just the two runs but got no offensive support and he was dealt his eighth loss of the year.

Game Three Notes:

Joaquin Benoit pitched a 1,2,3 eighth inning. When’s the last time that happened?

This series had three ex-Mariners hurt us in Happ, Smoak, and Saunders. Thanks guys.

I hate the way Encarnacion runs the bases with his arm hitched like that. Is there an invisible parrot on his arm? It looks dumb.

Other Notes:

It was awesome to see Griffey finally enter the Hall of Fame. He is easily the greatest Seattle athlete of all time and saved baseball here for all of us. No one played with more child-like cheer, more grace, or more swagger than “The Kid.” And I love that he gave an endorsement for Edgar Martinez to get in the Hall as well. That man was the best right handed hitter of the 90s and when guys like Pedro Martinez say that was the toughest hitter he ever faced, than that’s saying something.

Texas has been skidding lately and the Mariners are only 6.5 back of the Rangers and only four back of Houston. They’re also 4.5 back of the second Wild Card Spot. They have the starting pitching to make a run and the offense is capable, especially if Aoki can be a constant in the leadoff spot, but they’d need to get a plus bullpen arm or two to become really dangerous.

Next: Why the Griffey Legacy Will Live On

The whole Chris Sale story about cutting the jerseys is ridiculous. He shouldn’t have cut them up but the White Sox also shouldn’t force their Ace to wear throwbacks when he tells them how uncomfortable they are. Let’s see if they ship him off to a contender after this fiasco.