The Seattle Mariners, the team with the longest postseason drought in the four major professional sports, are just one game out of the American League’s second and final wild-card berth.
Tom Murphy hit two home runs Friday night as the Mariners (77-64), seeking their first playoff berth since 2001, defeated the visiting Arizona Diamondbacks 5-4 in the opener of a three-game series.
The teams will meet again Saturday night in Seattle.
It was Seattle’s 30th one-run victory of the season, the most in the majors.
“Always interesting, always entertaining,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said. “That’s it. That’s the 2021 Mariners. A nice way to start the homestand. We got an opportunity to pick up a game in the standings (Friday), which is really nice as our guys continue to grind through it.”
Murphy, who missed all of the pandemic-shortened 2020 season because of a foot injury, hit a two-run homer in the second inning to give the Mariners the lead and a solo shot in the sixth that proved to be the game-winner.
“I think the biggest thing we’ve done is mitigate those down-stretches really to find a way to win somehow to break up the monotony of losing two, three, four games in a row,” Murphy said. “This is the best team I’ve ever been on when it comes to that. It’s incredible how much morale we have and how much we don’t allow what happened yesterday to affect us today.”
Both of Murphy’s homers came off Arizona left-hander Madison Bumgarner, a former World Series MVP.
Over the past 11 games, Murphy is batting .321 with two homers and nine RBIs.
“He’s been probably one of our most consistent at-bats here over the last week or so, just grinding through it,” Servais said. “Obviously, his niche is killing the lefties. He usually stays right on left-handed pitching, and he was right there again (Friday).”
The Diamondbacks (45-96), who have lost six in a row and 11 of their past 12, did have a highlight.
Prospect Seth Beer, called up from Triple-A Reno earlier Friday, made his debut as a pinch-hitter in the eighth inning and homered off right-hander Diego Castillo. Beer was the fourth player in franchise history to go deep in their first major league at-bat.
“Kudos to him for being prepped and ready in that situation,” Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo said. “He dropped the barrel on the ball. It was a beautiful swing.”
Arizona’s Henry Ramos also hit his first MLB homer, in the second inning.
The Diamondbacks are scheduled to start right-hander Humberto Castellanos (1-1, 3.65 ERA) on Saturday. Castellanos allowed five runs in 3 2/3 innings in an 8-5 loss to the Mariners last weekend, getting a no-decision in his only career appearance against Seattle.
Right-hander Chris Flexen (11-5, 3.56) is set to take the mound for the Mariners. Flexen is 1-0 with a 3.75 ERA in two career starts against Arizona. He went six innings and allowed three runs against them on Sunday but didn’t get a decision in Seattle’s 10-4 victory.
The Mariners are 18-8 in Flexen’s starts this season.
–Field Level Media