Hello, Shawn O’Malley.
Promoted Tuesday from Triple-A Tacoma, O’Malley had three hits Wednesday night, including a tie-breaking RBI single in the eighth inning that helped propel the Seattle Mariners to an 8-3 victory over the Houston Astros.
“It was special,” he said. “I was looking for a pitch up that I could handle. Sometimes, it’s good not to use your barrel. You get jammed, and it just dropped right in there.”
This was one of those rare games this season when most things went the Mariners’ way. But don’t be deceived by the final score.
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This was a tight, seesaw contest until Logan Morrison continued his season-long assault at Minute Maid Park by hitting a three-run homer in the ninth inning.
Of Morrison’s 15 homers, six have come at Minute Maid. His two-run pinch-hit blast Tuesday provided the winning margin in a 7-5 victory.
“I love this park,” he said. “It’s good to know you can be a little late and still get a ball out. If you’re at Safeco, it’s probably an out.”
But it was a Morrison walk that helped turn the game. It was 3-3 in the eighth inning when he got a rematch against Astros reliever Pat Neshek, who served up Morrison’s two-run homer Tuesday.
“I figured he wasn’t going to lay a fastball in there for me after (Tuesday) night,” Morrison said. “So he mixed it up. I was just trying to get something over the middle of the plate again and do damage with it.
“I fouled some pitches off and won the battle. Just grinded it.”
When Jesus Sucre put down a sacrifice bunt, the Mariners caught a huge break when Neshek (3-5) overthrew second baseman Jose Altuve at first. That put runners at second and third with no outs.
O’Malley, a graduate of Southridge High in Kennewick, followed with a single to right for a 4-3 lead.
Sucre broke for home on Ketel Marte’s tapper to Altuve and was trapped for the first out but remained in the rundown long enough for the other runners to reach second and third.
That prompted an intentional walk to Kyle Seager, which loaded the bases for pinch hitter Seth Smith, who had just replaced an injured Nelson Cruz. The Astros countered by bringing in former Mariners left-hander Oliver Perez.
Smith’s slow roller to second produced a run when the Astros settled for a force at second. The Mariners led, 5-3.
Logan Kensing began the Houston eighth by surrendering a double to Jed Lowrie, who went to third on a wild pitch. After Carlos Correa popped out, the Mariners called on closer Tom Wilhelmsen.
“Right there,” Wilhelmsen said, “I was trying to harness my inner Carson Smith with what he did (Tuesday). Seriously. That’s exactly what went through my mind. Just be a Carson right now.”
Smith worked around a leadoff triple in Tuesday’s victory. Wilhelmsen did him one better. He stranded Lowrie at third in the eighth and held Carlos Gomez at third in the ninth after a leadoff double and an error.
The ninth inning was far easier; Wilhelmsen was pitching with a five-run lead at that point. He closed out the victory for his eighth save. And Smith got the victory after stranding runners at second and third in the seventh.
For O’Malley, who grew up a Mariners fan, it was surreal that he found himself getting congratulations from hitting coach Edgar Martinez.
“It’s awesome how things have changed,” said O’Malley, who signed with the Mariners in January as a minor league free agent.
“I was like, ‘Man, I used to look up to you when I was a little kid and now you are high-fiving me and telling me how to hit.’ It was awesome.”
The Mariners’ closing kick followed a wild seventh inning.
Taijuan Walker settled into a groove through the middle innings and got two quick outs before hitting a bump by walking Luis Valbuena after being ahead 1-2 in the count.
When Hank Conger followed with a double into the right-field corner, Valbuena stopped at third — and the Mariners went to the bullpen for Smith to face Altuve.
Smith (2-5) struck out Altuve on a full-count slider and got the victory after the Mariners took the lead in the eighth. Smith also struck out Altuve on Tuesday when he worked around that leadoff triple.
“I just try to stay away with all of my pitches,” Smith said, “and try to force weak contact. He doesn’t have a big strike zone. He’s a small guy, but he doesn’t play like it. You’ve got pretend he’s David Ortiz up there.”
Smith’s escape came after the Mariners squandered a glorious chance in the top of the seventh following Seager’s leadoff walk against Will Harris.
When Cruz lined a single to center, Seager raced for third and beat the throw from Carlos Gomez.
The Astros challenged in the belief that Seager came off the base with Lowrie still applying a tag, but a replay review let the call stand.
Harris trapped Seager between third and home on Robinson Cano’s hopper back to the mound, but Seager stayed in the rundown long enough for the other runners to reach second and third.
An intentional walk to Franklin Gutierrez loaded the bases for Mark Trumbo, who sent a fly to short right. Cruz tried to score, but Colby Rasmus made a strong throw to the plate for a double play.
Cruz suffered a strained right quadriceps muscle on the play and left the game. He was limping afterward, but the injury isn’t believed to be serious.
“We will have a better idea on Friday,” he said. “What they say is it’s not as bad as Grade 1.”
FRIDAY: Seattle (LHP Edgar Olmos: 1-0, 2.13 ERA) at Oakland (RHP Aaron Brooks: 1-1, 5.47), 7:10 p.m., Root Sports, 710-AM