Dae-Ho Lee provided the decisive blow, but only after Seattle’s power-hitting first baseman from South Korea shocked everyone by starting the at-bat looking as though he was going to bunt.
“That was not coming from the bench,” Mariners manager Scott Servais joked.
Franklin Gutierrez hit a two-run homer in the first inning, Lee added a three-run shot in the fourth and the Mariners beat the Tampa Bay Rays 6-4 on Tuesday night.
The Mariners took the first two games of the three-game series and won for the 18th time in the past 25. This time it was thanks to home runs from an unlikely duo, both off Tampa Bay starter Drew Smyly.
Gutierrez’s homer was his first of the season after hitting 15 in just 59 games last year. Lee’s homer was his fifth in limited action while splitting time at first base.
Lee started the day by presenting his teammates and coaches with custom sunglasses from South Korea as a sign of appreciation for the opportunity he’s getting in Seattle.
While the gesture was nice, the home run was probably more meaningful.
“I don’t feel really comfortable, but every at-bat I just focus and concentrate,” Lee said through a translator.
Smyly (1-4) tied a career high with six runs allowed and gave up 10 hits. The left-hander had been rolling as one of the best pitchers in the American League early in the season, giving up a combined seven earned runs and 17 hits over his previous five starts.
Gutierrez’s homer was part of a three-run first inning for Seattle, but the more costly mistake by Smyly was the three-run homer given up to Lee. After showing bunt on the first pitch, Lee drove a 1-2 delivery into the right-field seats.
“I honestly didn’t think he’d be able to hit that pitch out. I was hoping for a groundball or something,” Smyly said. “It was up, and he put a good drive on it.”
Steve Pearce hit a pair of solo homers and Steven Souza Jr. added a solo shot for Tampa Bay. But those were the only costly mistakes made by Seattle starter Wade Miley (3-2), who allowed four hits and struck out six over six-plus innings in winning his third straight decision.
Pearce had his fourth career multihomer game and Souza’s home run leading off the seventh brought the Rays to 6-4 and ended Miley’s night. Tampa Bay had two runners on with two outs in the eighth, but Nelson Cruz made a sliding catch of Souza’s fly ball down the right-field line to end the threat.
Steve Cishek induced the fly ball from Souza to end the eighth and, after giving up Hank Conger’s single to open the ninth, struck out the final three batters for his 11th save in 12 chances. It was the third time this season Cishek has pitched more than one inning.
“The guy looks filthy from the side, that’s for sure,” Tampa Bay manager Kevin Cash said. “I can imagine how difficult he is when you’re in the batter’s box.”
Seattle led 3-0 in the first inning and had Cruz on third base when Smyly stopped his delivery after it appeared catcher Curt Casali called time. Plate umpire Jerry Layne initially called a balk and awarded Cruz home plate. Smyly argued that he stopped because time had been called and, after an umpire meeting, the call was reversed and Cruz was sent back to third. Cruz did not score.
“Very impressive the way he handled the situation. He admitted there was some confusion and corrected it,” Cash said.
Rays: Logan Forsythe was out of the starting lineup after getting hit by a pitch near his shoulder in Monday’s series opener. Forsythe was available to pinch-hit late in the game, but was hopeful of getting a couple of days off.
Mariners: RHP Joaquin Benoit had a strong bullpen session Monday and is moving closer to returning to Seattle’s bullpen. Benoit has not pitched since April 21 and was placed on the disabled list with right shoulder soreness.
Rays: Chris Archer (2-4) goes for his second straight win after throwing six scoreless innings his last time out against the Angels.
Mariners: Taijuan Walker (2-2) is scheduled to start after leaving his last outing against Houston after just two innings because of neck spasms. Even with the short stint in Houston, Walker has thrown at least six innings and allowed two or fewer runs in four of his six starts.