SEATTLE — Mike Leake desperately wanted to make a strong first impression with the Seattle Mariners, knowing they were barely hanging on in the AL wild-card race and needed their new right-hander to be at the top of his game.
Even Leake had a moment of concern when three batters into his Seattle tenure he had allowed three hits and a run.
“That first inning I was like, ‘What am I putting myself into?'” Leake said. “Luckily I was able to pull it together.”
Leake overcame a shaky beginning to throw seven innings in his Seattle debut, and the Mariners snapped a five-game losing streak with a 3-2 victory over the Oakland Athletics on Friday night.
Acquired from St. Louis earlier in the week to help Seattle’s beleaguered rotation, Leake gave the Mariners the kind of performance they needed to remain on the fringes of the wild-card race. Leake (1-0), who was 7-12 with St. Louis, allowed two runs in the first inning, but held the A’s scoreless the rest of the way. It was just the fourth time since the All-Star break a Mariners starting pitcher has gotten through seven innings and the first since James Paxton did it on July 24.
“(It) was a big shot in the arm for us, him coming in here and doing that, stopping a losing streak and hopefully getting us some momentum going forward,” Seattle manager Scott Servais said.
Leake matched his season-high with seven strikeouts and scattered eight hits. He struck out Marcus Semien to end the seventh with the tying run on third base.
“I’m excited. I might not show it but the last few days were such a whirlwind that it’s probably going to take these next few days to interact and get to know these guys to really show my emotion,” Leake said.
Leake’s performance was exactly what Seattle needed playing its first home game since Aug. 16. The right-hander stumbled through the first inning giving up three straight hits to open the game, including an RBI double to Jed Lowrie. But he retired 13 of the final 16 batters he faced.
“We made him throw the ball over the middle of the plate the first three innings, and then he got better after that,” Oakland manager Bob Melvin said.
Marc Rzepczynski and Nick Vincent pitched the eighth and Edwin Diaz pitched the ninth for his 31st save.
Seattle got all of its runs in the third inning against Oakland starter Sean Manaea. Mike Zunino led off the inning with an opposite-field home run, his 20th of the season. Jean Segura followed with a single, stole second and scored on Mitch Haniger’s single. A hit batter and walk loaded the bases and Haniger scored on Kyle Seager’s sacrifice fly.
“I let things snowball way too quickly,” Manaea said. “I just didn’t do a good job of calming things down and just really trying to assess the situation. I went out there and just kept throwing, kept throwing.”
Otherwise, Manaea (9-9) was the equal of Leake. Manaea’s outing was his longest since throwing seven innings on July 27 against Toronto. It was his third straight start allowing three earned runs or less.
Leake became the 17th starting pitcher used by the Mariners this season, the most in baseball. That number ties a club record set in Seattle’s inaugural season of 1977.
Athletics: Oakland added top prospect INF Franklin Barreto and LHP Sam Moll from Triple-A Nashville. Barreto will be making his second appearance in the majors, while Moll made his major league debut entering in the eighth inning.
Mariners: Seattle added four pitchers for its bullpen — RHPs Shea Simmons, Andrew Moore, Dan Altavilla and Ryan Garton — while also adding C Mike Marjama.
Athletics: RHP Paul Blackburn is likely done for the season. Blackburn took a line drive off his right hand last week against Baltimore and has a deep bone bruise. … C Josh Phegley and OF Jake Smolinski were activated from the disabled list on Friday. Phegley had been sidelined by an oblique strain while Smolinski has not played in the majors in 2017 due to shoulder surgery.
Mariners: Seattle will have an array of pitchers throwing bullpen sessions through the weekend. Felix Hernandez was first on Friday, followed by Paxton and Tony Zych on Saturday. The Mariners goal is to try and get Paxton and Hernandez back into the rotation by the middle of the month, but that means no setbacks in their throwing programs.
Athletics: Jharel Cotton (7-10) goes for his third straight win. Cotton is 2-2 in six starts since coming off the disabled list in late July.
Mariners: Yovani Gallardo (5-10) makes his 22nd start. Gallardo has a 6.29 ERA in his 21 games as a starter this season.