By Don Ruiz The News Tribune
SEATTLE — The Seattle Mariners have faced their share of late-inning disappointment this season.
They were staring at more of it Friday, when the Tampa Bay Rays came from two runs down to draw even with them in the eighth inning.
However, this time the Mariners answered immediately as Justin Smoak lofted a two-out double that provided the game-winning runs in a 6-4 victory before a crowd of 14,796 at Safeco Field.
“A big hit,” manager Eric Wedge said. “The kid made a hell of an effort out there in right field to catch that ball, but Smoaky did a good job of getting inside the ball and keeping it fair. … Those are the differences in those games. We’re in pretty much every game. You look at our losses this year and how many tough losses have we had? How many games have we been in where we’re just a hit or play or a pitch away. Tonight we were on the good side of it, which was good to see.”
Seattle (64-77) took a 4-2 lead in the fourth inning, but the offense sputtered after that.
Meanwhile, Tampa Bay (77-63) chipped away with a run in the sixth, before pulling even in the eighth when pinch hitter Luke Scott got a two-out double off of reliever Carter Capps.
Seattle answered in the bottom half, when Smoak came up with two on and two out. He lofted a fly to right field, which outfielder Wil Myers raced after and caught up to, but couldn’t quite control with his diving attempt.
“I was just praying it would get down,” Smoak said. “Luckily it hit some grass out there. … It feels good – especially 4-4 game, guys on base, one swing of the bat away from winning the game. It’s always a good thing.”
That put the game in the hands of Seattle closer Danny Farquhar, who got two quick outs, allowed a single, and then retired Myers for the save.
After enduring their club-record-tying 12 extra inning defeat the day before in Kansas City, the Mariners were in no mood to face another on Friday.
“It was good to come back,” Wedge said. “You need to try to keep that lead obviously.”
Seattle had taken that 4-2 lead on the strength of Raul Ibanez’s second home run in as many games and his 27th of the season.
The home run was the second in as many games for Ibanez, who had only one in a 35-game stretch from July 13 through Wednesday.
“Another big home run, getting on top of that fast ball and hit it a long way,” Wedge said. “Maybe he’s starting to heat up a little bit, which would be huge for us.
The fourth-inning shot to right field also put Ibanez two behind Ted Williams’ record for most home runs by a player 41 years of age or older.
“It’s nice to be able to help your team anytime you can,” he said. “It was a really good win for us: tough team, tough pitcher they threw out there against us, and we were able to pull it together there at the end.”
Seattle starting pitcher Hisashi Iwakuma went 5.2 innings and got no decision. The win went to Capps (3-3). Farquhar got his 13th save.
Brad Miller and Franklin Gutierrez each had two hits for the Mariners, who also tied their season high with two stolen bases (Nick Franklin and Gutierrez).