By Bob Dutton The News Tribune
SEATTLE — Logan Morrison was the only Mariners player who, prior to Wednesday afternoon, had ever faced Atlanta starter Julio Teheran. And that seemed like an advantage until he struck out in his first at-bat.
“I had to go back and look at the video,” Morrison said, “because I didn’t know what he struck me out on. I didn’t know what it was. I didn’t see spin. Nothing.
“The first pitch in the second at-bat, the same thing. I was like, ‘Oh, that’s a fastball … no, it’s a changeup.’ I fouled it off. I was telling myself to see it, take the same aggressive swing. I did and ran into it.”
That “it” turned into a three-run homer that capped a four-run third inning and carried the Mariners to a 7-3 victory over the slumping Braves and a sweep of their two-game series at Safeco Field.
Morrison’s first homer since July 11 followed a leadoff homer earlier in the inning by Dustin Ackley and came after the Braves had taken a brief 3-1 lead in the top of the third against Mariners starter Chris Young.
“I think that was big to grab the momentum back,” manager Lloyd McClendon said. “We haven’t done that a lot. The big guy (Young) got us through the fifth, and we were able to get to the bullpen.
“He gave us five. He got a victory, and he deserves one of those.”
Young (10-6) lasted just five innings before five relievers combined to hold Atlanta scoreless over the final four innings. The Braves have lost eight in a row.
“Our bullpen has been lights out,” Young said. “The credit, all of them deserve so much of it. They’ve been amazing. As a starter, you know if you keep the team close, the bullpen is going to come in and hold it right there.”
The bullpen has been a season-long strength, but the Mariners also produced a balanced 12-hit attack. Kyle Seager contributed three singles, while Robinson Cano had two doubles. Ackley also had two hits.
Eight of the nine starters had at least one hit.
“I just feel that it’s building,” McClendon said. “We have a nice mix now. We have a nice veteran presence in that lineup. I just think we’re getting ready to take off from an offensive standpoint.”
The Mariners (59-54) started the day trailing Toronto by one game and Kansas City by one-half game in the chase for the American League’s final wild-card berth.
Ackley ignited the decisive four-run third with a line-drive homer to right field against Teheran, who gave up six runs in six innings after entering the game with a 2.69 earned run average.
“That run and some of the others were big,” Ackley said. “When you can answer some runs with a run or two runs, it always helps.”
The Mariners grabbed an early lead against Teheran (10-8) after Ackley reached on a one-out infield single in the first inning. Cano followed with a walk.
Teheran retired Kendrys Morales on a fly to left field, but Seager drove a two-out RBI single to right for a 1-0 lead.
Young retired the first six Braves but found trouble in the third inning when three singles loaded with bases with one out. A walk to Tommy La Stella forced in the tying run before Freddie Freeman sliced a drive to the left-center gap.
Two runs scored easily, but shortstop Chris Taylor took the relay from center fielder Austin Jackson and threw out La Stella at the plate. So, it was just a two-run double for Freeman, but the Braves led 3-1.
“I felt the pitches I made in the third weren’t horrible,” Young said. “It started with a broken-bat base-hit. Then a ground ball through the hole. A soft base-hit and the bases were loaded.
“La Stella, I walked him. Then Freeman, I think, is one of the best hitters in the game. Not necessarily the situation I wanted to be in, but I didn’t feel I made bad pitches to get there. You just can’t control the results.”
Ackley’s homer cut the deficit to 3-2 before two-out singles by Seager and Taylor put runners at first and second. Morrison then turned on a 91-mph fastball and drove it into the right-field seats.
The Mariners led 5-3 and added single runs in the fifth and seventh innings.
“We’ve just got to score runs,” Morrison said. “That’s all it comes down to. We know what we can do once we put up four runs. Our team wins a lot of games. That’s the goal.”
The Mariners are 43-10 when they score four runs.